WASHINGTON (AP) – Aug. 4, 2015 – Apartment rents are up. So are prices for restaurant meals, haircuts, gym memberships and a cup of coffee.

For American consumers who have become used to flat or even falling prices for several years, an unfamiliar sight has emerged in many corners of the economy: Inflation is ticking up.

The price increases remain modest. And in many cases, they're canceled out by price declines for other items that are keeping overall inflation historically low.

Yet the stepped-up price tags for a range of consumer items are the largest since the Great Recession ended six years ago. They actually reflect a healthier economy: Many businesses have finally grown confident enough to pass their own higher costs on to consumers without fear of losing customers. Employers have added nearly 5.6 million jobs the past two years, allowing more people to absorb higher prices.

Signs of emergent inflation are a key reason the Federal Reserve will likely raise interest rates from record lows later this year. Inflation has long trailed the Fed's 2 percent target rate but is on track to return to that level in coming months.

"That should give the Fed a little more confidence that … they will meet their (inflation) objective," said Laura Rosner, an economist at BNP Paribas.

In June, the price of haircuts jumped 1.6 percent, the biggest monthly jump in the 62 years that the government has tracked the data. Over the past year, they've surged 2.8 percent, the largest year-over-year gain since 2008.

That's no surprise to Chrissie Crosby, a retired government worker in Alexandria, Virginia. She says her hair salon has started charging nearly $30 for a shampoo, blow dry and haircut, up from $22.

"It used to be a convenient place for a trim, because it was inexpensive, but it's no longer very inexpensive," she said.

Coffee prices jumped 6.1 percent in January from 12 months earlier, the most in nearly three years. Starbucks has responded by raising the price of a cup of coffee by between 5 cents and 20 cents.

And beef prices have soared nearly 11 percent in the past year, which has led Chipotle to raise prices for steak and its beef barbacoa by an average of about 30 cents per entree, the company says.

The biggest driver of inflation this year has been residential rents. They climbed 3.5 percent in June from a year earlier, the fifth straight month with an annual gain of that size.

Overall, consumers have yet to be hit by significant increases for everyday purchases. Inflation as measured by the consumer price index has barely risen in the past 12 months, mostly because cheaper gas has held down the index.

But prices are rising.