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Wasatch Front cost of living falls .9%, outpaces U.S. trend

The largest drop in transportation costs in four years pushed the cost of living for Wasatch Front residents down 0.9 percent in January, outpacing the national deflationary trend. The 4.4 percent decline in the transportation index of the survey of local consumer prices, released Tuesday, was the most dramatic decrease since December 1993, said Kelly K. Matthews, executive vice president and chief economist for First Security Corp., which sponsors the monthly report. Matthews cited falling gasoline prices for much of the decline in transportation costs.

The local 0.9 percent decline in overall costs compared with a 0.2 percent increase (nonseasonally adjusted) nationwide as reported Tuesday by the U.S. Labor Department.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, the more closely watched figure nationally, inflation was nonexistent across the United State in January as consumer prices were unchanged. As with the local figures, the biggest drop in energy prices in nearly seven years was cited. It as the first month without an increase nationally since January 1994.

Energy costs plunged 2.4 percent nationally, the largst decrease since March 1991. They are now 25 percent lower than a year ago and, with crude oil prices still falling, they're expected to go down even more.

Tuesday's Labor Department report underscores analysts' belief that Federal Reserve policymakers aren't likely to increase interest rates, finding little prospect for rising inflation.

Since First Security began tracking local costs in March, 1988, consumer prices along the Wasatch Front have increased 34.0 percent compared with a 38.6 percent rise nationally over the same 11-year period.

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

Groceries - Prices declined 0.8 percent after four months of increases. Produce prices went down while the costs of meat and alcoholic beverages rose. Nationally, grocery prices increased 1.1 percent. Over the past six months, local grocery costs have risen 4.0 percent compared to the same period a year ago.

Transportation - Costs declined for the fifth consecutive month, reflecting five months of falling gasoline prices. Nationally, costs fell 0.3 percent for the month. Over the past six months, local transportation costs have gone up 0.3 percent from the same period a year earlier.

Housing - Costs, based on rents, were stable locally in January while nationally they rose 0.4 percent.

Clothing - Wasatch Front clothing expenses increased 0.3 percent, breaking a three month downward trend. Higher prices were found on women's apparel.

Health care - Expenses were stable locally, compared with a 0.4 percent increase nationally. Over the past six months, health care costs have gone up 1.3 percent.

Restaurant food - the cost of eating out at local restaurants remained stable in January, following a 0.2 percent decline in December. Nationally, prices rose 0.1 percent.

Utilities - Local utility bills were stable last month, but they declined 0.9 percent nationally.

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Additional Information

Cost of living index

WASATCH FRONT

Index %Change (Non Seas.Adj)

Mar. 1988=100 6 mos. 1 mo

prior prior

All Categories 134.0 1.5 -0.9

Housing 167.7 0.5 0.0

Transportation 116.7 0.3 -4.4

Health Care 140.4 1.3 0.0

Food at Home 143.9 4.0 -0.8

Clothing 119.8 0.1 0.3

Food Away 146.5 2.6 0.0

Utilities 94.6 1.2 0.0

Other 129.0 4.8 0.0

NATIONAL

Index %Change (Non Seas.Adj) (Seas.Adj.)

Mar. 1988=100 6 mos.* 1 mo 1 mo.

prior prior prior

All Categories 138.6 1.8 0.2 0.0

Housing 135.2 2.4 0.4 0.1

Transportation 134.6 0.1 -0.3 -0.3

Health Care 174.8 2.7 0.4 -0.1

Food at Home 141.5 1.7 1.1 0.4

Clothing 113.5 0.9 -1.4 -0.5

Food Away 131.8 2.1 0.1 0.1

Utilities 132.5 2.1 -0.9 -1.2

Other 172.0 4.9 0.5 0.4

* Last six-month percentage change compared with same period one year ago.

Courtesy of First Security Bank