The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) measure of inflation was pushed upward by rising electricity, gas, fuel and second-hand car costs.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) also revealed that rising prices for food and non-alcoholic beverages – compared with falls a year ago – resulted in the largest upward contributor to the increase from nine per cent in April to 9.1 per cent in May.
But the largest downward pull came from recreation and culture, as well as clothing and footwear.
Compared to last year, inflation stood at 2.1 per cent.
ONS chief economist, Grant Fitzner, said: “Though still at historically high levels, the annual inflation rate was little changed in May.
“Continued steep food price rises and record high petrol prices were offset by clothing costs rising by less than this time last year and a drop in often fluctuating computer games prices.
“The price of goods leaving factories rose at their fastest rate in 45 years, driven by widespread food price rises, while the cost of raw materials leapt at their fastest rate on record.”
‘Far from finished’
Sarah Coles, senior personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “Inflation continued its relentless and agonising journey north in May, hitting 9.1 per cent. Already it’s up seven percentage points in a year, and it’s far from finished: the Bank of England now expects it to peak at 11 per cent in October. Energy and fuel prices are powering it onwards and supply problems are fuelling the fire.
“It’s no wonder that so many people are getting increasingly anxious that their wages are falling way short, and that some are considering industrial action. The problem is that over time, as wages rise to help people meet these horrible rising costs, they could help intensify the heat of inflation.”
Laura Suter, head of personal finance at AJ Bell, said: “A slight uptick in inflation in May to 9.1 per cent means that the UK public have been spared double digit inflation for now, but it’s just around the corner. RPI inflation, which is what many of us see our bills increase by every year, has now hit 11.7 per cent – another 40-year high.
“Unfortunately, more gloom lies ahead, and the hopes of inflation ebbing away later this year are dead. Energy costs will drive inflation higher later this year, with the latest estimates showing that the energy price cap will now rise to £3,000 in October, far more than many had expected, and that it won’t fall in the January update either. It means one thing is for certain, this rising inflation isn’t going away any time soon and this coming winter could be tougher than the last.”