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LIVING EXPENSES RISE 2.3% ON WASATCH FRONT

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The cost of living along the Wasatch Front rose 2.3 percent in May, the fourth consecutive month of increase, according to First Security Bank's monthly Wasatch Front Area Cost of Living Report.

That increase compared with a 0.1 percent increase on a nonseasonally adjusted basis reported nationally Tuesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, said Kelly Matthews, First Security chief economist.A local decrease measured for groceries was offset by increases for transportation, clothing, dining out and housing. Utilities and health-care costs remained stable for the month.

The cost of buying food for the home in the Wasatch Front area broke a six-month upward trend in May by declining 1.7 percent. Decreases were measured for produce, shelf items, meat and alcoholic beverages. The local drop compared with no change nationally for the month.

Meat prices decreased 4.4 percent, after four consecutive months of increases. Pork costs declined for the second month, by 16.2 percent in May. Bacon prices dived 12.6 percent, reversing the April trend.

Produce decreased 2.5 percent, following two months of increase. Onions increased 70.2 percent, carrots continued their monthly see-saw action by increasing 30.8 percent in May. Celery prices rose for a second month, by 8.6 percent in May; and bananas decreased 41.5 percent, after one month of increase.

Wasatch Front area health-care costs decreased 0.02 percent in May. Lower costs for non-prescription drugs caused May's decline. During the past six months, a 4.9 percent increase has been noted for local health-care costs, compared with the same period the previous year.

Wasatch Front transportation expenses rose for the third consecutive month. The rate measured in May was 11.4 percent, compared with a 0.2 percent increase nationally. The local gain was caused by higher gasoline prices and higher costs for automobile maintenance. During the past six months, local transportation costs have dropped 3.2 percent, compared with the same period in 1993, according to the report.

An increase of 2.9 percent was observed for Wasatch Front clothing expenses in May, reversing a three-month trend. Higher costs were reported for children's clothing, menswear, women's apparel, and clothing maintenance. The local increase compared with a national increase of 0.6 percent for the month.

Wasatch Front area housing costs rose 0.5 percent in May, the sixth consecutive month of increase. The rise was caused by higher local rental charges. The gain compared with a 0.1 percent increase nationally. In addition, the cost of housing over the past six months has risen 7.8 percent over the first six months of 1993.

The cost of dining out in the Wasatch Front area rose 0.2 percent in May, after two consecutive months of decline, and compared with a 0.1 percent increase in restaurant prices nationally. Higher local prices were recorded for main dishes prepared with beef, according to First Security.

Local residential utility bills remained stable during the month, which compared with a 0.3 percent increase seen on a nationwide basis.

Price data for the First Security Bank Wasatch Front Area Cost of Living Report are produced by an independent research firm.