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COST OF LIVING IS PUTTING A BIGGER DENT IN WALLET

The cost of living for Wasatch Front residents rose for the fifth consecutive month in July, up 0.2 percent, First Security Bank chief economist Kelly K. Matthews said Friday in the bank's monthly report.

Nationally, the U.S. Bureau of Labor reported no change in costs for the month - which like the local figures are nonseasonally adjusted - as inflation in Utah continued to outpace the rest of the country this year.Seasonally adjusted, national costs rose 0.2 percent, identical to the Utah nonseasonal rate, as the biggest drop in gasoline prices in more than four years helped offset rising food costs.

For the past six months, local costs are up 5.6 percent over the same period in 1994, nearly double the 3.0 percent increase nationally for the same period.

But since March, 1988, when First Security began tracking local costs, local inflation is still below the national average. Over that seven-year period, the cost of living along the Wasatch Front has gone up 26.9 percent vs. a 31.0 percent rise for the United States overall.

Nationally, the Labor Department said its Consumer Price Index increased at a 3.1 percent annual rate for the first seven months of 1995, compared to 2.7 percent for all of last year.

In another report, the Commerce Department said a big drop in automobile sales helped cause an unexpected 0.1 percent decline in retail sales, which had rebounded in May and June.

On Wall Street, the stock market initially reacted to the flat national inflation figures by moving higher, but blue chips quickly reversed direction, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down 10.92 in late-morning trading.

Here are how the various spending categories fared locally in July:

GROCERIES - Food prices declined 1.2 percent, the second month in a row of lower costs. Increases in the prices of shelf items and alcoholic beverages were offset by declining prices for meat and produce. Since March, 1988, local grocery costs have gone up 27.9 percent.

TRANSPORTATION - Expenses were down 0.2 percent after rising in June. Higher costs for public transit were offset by lower gasoline prices, which had risen the previous four months. Local costs have gone up 21.4 percent since 1988.

CLOTHING - Reversing June's decline, higher price tags on clothing for men and women pushed costs up 1.6 percent in July, although children's clothes were less expensive for the month. Since 1988, local clothing costs are up 14.5 percent.

RESTAURANT FOOD - The cost of eating out along the Wasatch Front rose 0.5 percent in July after declining in June. Local restaurant costs have gone up 35.1 percent since 1988.

HOUSING - Local costs were up 0.3 percent in July, the fifth consecutive month of higher costs. Rising home maintenance costs were cited. Since 1988, local housing costs have risen 60.1 percent, by far the largest increase of any spending category.

HEALTH CARE - Costs were up 0.2 percent for the month, also the fifth consecutive monthly increase. Higher fees for a doctor's care offset lower prices for over-the-counter drugs and hospital costs. Health-care costs have gone up 33.9 percent locally over the past seven years.

UTILITIES - Residential utility bills were stable in July following an increase in June. Since 1988, local costs have gone down 13.6 percent, the only spending category to decline.

MISCELLANEOUS - Higher costs for professional and educational expenses pushed this category up 1.5 percent in July after a June decline. Costs for personal care and entertainment also rose in July. Since 1988, miscellaneous expenses are up 10.3 percent.