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PRICES RISE 1.6 PERCENT ALONG THE WASATCH

Inflation is on the march along the Wasatch Front as First Security Bank's monthly Cost of Living Report released Thursday shows consumer prices rising 1.6 percent in April, the second consecutive monthly increase and well above the national inflation figure.

Only health care resisted the upward movement in local prices as costs for transportation, groceries, housing, eating out, clothing and utilities were all higher for the month.The Wasatch Front's 1.6 percent rise in living costs compared to a non-seasonally adjusted increase of 0.7 percent reported nationally Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The April increase would seem to reflect an 18 percent annual inflation rate locally, but First Security economist Kelly K. Matthews said he doesn't think that's realistic. "We're not going to see gasoline prices continue (rising) like they have," he said.

As for the higher inflation rate locally compared to the national figure, he said it could be a "timing problem" - especially in the sharp increases locally for some grocery items.

-GROCERIES - On the heels of lower prices in March, local grocery costs were up 2.5 percent, compared with a 0.7 percent increase nationwide. Leading the price hikes were meat, produce and shelf items. Grocery costs for Wasatch Front residents have jumped 5.4 percent over the past six months, compared with a 3.8 percent increase nationally. Local costs are up 9.8 percent since March 1988.

Produce prices rose 24.1 percent locally in April with celery soaring 78.7 percent, tomatoes 63.8 percent an carrots 14.4 percent. Meat prices rose 3.8 percent for the month with beef franks up 9.8 percent and pork up 5.0 percent. Toilet tissue led shelf items with a 10.7 percent increase, jelly was up 8.9 percent and soft drinks up 8.6 percent. Sugar prices increased for the fourth consecutive month, up 2.2 percent.

-EATING OUT - Restaurant prices rose 2.7 percent locally in April, reversing March's downward trend. Higher prices were recorded for beef and chicken main dishes. Non-alcoholic beverages and desserts were also higher.

-TRANSPORTATION - For the second consecutive month, transportation costs locally were up in April - 5.3 percent. Lower costs for vehicle maintenance were offset by a second month of higher gasoline prices. Since March 1988, transportation costs have increased 5.9 percent and 7.9 percent in the past six month.

-CLOTHING - Local clothing expenses rose 0.3 percent in April, ending a four-month downward trend. Lower price tags on children's clothes were offset by higher prices for men's and women's wear.

-UTILITIES - Residential utility bills ended a two-month downward trend in April with a 0.2 percent increase. A second month of lower electric bills - down 2.9 percent - were offset by higher natural gas rates, which rose 1.3 percent following a stable month in March. Water rates remained stable. Since March 1988, utility costs have dropped 4.5 percent locally, with 3.0 percent of the decrease coming in the past six months.

-HOUSING - Local housing costs were up 1.0 percent in April, the second consecutive monthly increase. Higher rental charges are cited in the report. Since March 1988, housing costs have declined 2.5 percent locally but are up 0.4 percent for the past six months.

-HEALTH CARE - Local health-care costs decreased 0.1 percent in April - the only category to decline - following a rise in March. Dental-care costs were higher for the month but were offset by lower prices for non-prescription medicines. Health-care costs have declined 0.4 percent since March 1988 and have dropped 4.0 percent over the past six months.

Matthews said the Wasatch Front Inflation Index - calculated at 100 beginning in March 1988 - now stands at 100.5, only slightly higher than a year ago. That compares with a 106.1 index calculated nationally from the same base month last year.

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(Chart)

Cost of living index

Wasatch Front

Index Non-Seas. Adj. Mar. 1988=100 6 Mos. Cum. April

All Categories 100.5 1.1% 1.6%

Housing 97.5 0.4% 1.0%

Transportation 105.9 7.9% 5.3%

Health Care 99.6 -4.0% -0.1%

Food at home 109.8 5.4% 2.5%

Clothing 93.6 -4.5% 0.3%

Food Away 102.6 4.2% 2.7%

Utilites 95.5 -3.0% 0.2%

Other 100.8 0.2% 0.4%

National

Index Non-Seas. Adj. Seas. Adj.

Mar. 1988=100 6 Mos. Cum. April April

All Categories 106.1 2.5% 0.7% 0.7%

Housing 104.3 1.4% 0.1% 0.1%

Transportation 107.2 4.2% 2.4% 2.1%

Health Care 108.3 4.0% 0.5% 0.5%

Food at home 108.2 3.8% 0.7% 0.6%

Clothing 109.4 0.2% 1.3% 0.3%

Food Away 105.7 2.2% 0.4% 0.4%

Utilities 103.7 0.9% 0.3% 0.5%

Other 107.8 2.9% 0.2% 0.3%