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WASATCH FRONT COST OF LIVING FALLS .3%

SHARE WASATCH FRONT COST OF LIVING FALLS .3%

The cost of living for Wasatch Front residents dropped 0.3 percent in September, reversing two months of increases, according to First Security Bank's monthly report.

The local decline compared with a 0.4 percent increase (non-seasonally adjusted) as reported Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.First Security chief economist Kelly K. Matthews said the Wasatch Front Inflation Index was at 109.3 for September compared with 117.5 nationally. The index is based on 100 beginning in March, 1988.

Here's how the various spending categories fared in September:

GROCERIES - After a stable August, the cost of eating at home rose 0.7 percent last month, well above the 0.1 percent increase nationally. While produce prices were down, they were offset by price hikes for meat and alcoholic beverages. Over the past six months, local grocery costs have declined 2.4 percent.

UTILITIES - Local utility bills dropped 4.3 percent last month after going up in August. Water rates were down 11.4 percent while electric bills declined 2.6 percent. Natural gas bills were down 1.0 percent. Over the past six months, local utility bills have declined 9.7 percent compared with a 2.3 percent increase nationwide.

HEALTH CARE - For the second consecutive month, local health care costs increased, up 0.7 percent in September compared with a 0.4 percent increase nationally. Lower costs for a doctor's care were offset by higher prices for non-prescription drugs.

TRANSPORTATION - The cost of getting around declined 0.6 percent along the Wasatch Front in September after going up in July and August. There was no change nationally. Higher local premiums for auto insurance were offset by lower gasoline prices and maintenance costs.

RESTAURANT FOOD - The cost of eating out was unchanged in September following two months of increases. For the past six months, restaurant prices have declined 2.0 percent, compared with a 1.7 percent drop nationwide.

CLOTHING - Wasatch Front clothing prices declined 1.2 percent last month. Nationally, prices were up 2.9 percent. A second month of price hikes on children's clothes was offset by lower prices for both men's and women's apparel. Local clothing costs declined 0.1 percent over the past six months, compared with a 2.1 percent increase across the United States.