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Originally published Friday, March 15, 2013 at 12:00 PM

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Seattle-area inflation climbs 0.8%, gas prices jump 8.4% in 2 months

Fueled by sharply higher gasoline prices, inflation in the greater Seattle area jumped 0.8 percent over the past two months, federal researchers reported Friday.

Seattle Times business reporter

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Fueled by sharply higher gasoline prices, inflation in the Greater Seattle area jumped 0.8 percent over the past two months, federal researchers reported Friday.

Over the past year, the local Consumer Price Index rose 1.76 percent, less than the national inflation rate of 2 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

Seattle-area gasoline prices rose 8.4 percent between December and February, including a 7.3 percent increase last month alone.

But local inflation remained tame in most other categories, and the gasoline surge is expected to recede over the next several weeks.

Food prices rose 0.3 percent in the past two months and 1.9 percent since February 2012. Shelter costs, a major contributor to inflation over the past year, were up just 0.2 percent between December and February.

Medical costs rose 0.9 percent over the past year but fell 0.1 percent in the past two months. Household energy, which includes electricity and gas service, was up 1.2 percent since February 2012 but fell 0.9 percent in January. Clothing prices, however, rose 2.9 percent over the past two months and 2.2 percent since February 2012.

Unlike U.S.-level inflation and consumer prices, which are tracked every month, Seattle prices are measured every other month. They are not adjusted for seasonal variations.

With gasoline prices starting to edge lower, economists expect inflation to fall back in coming months.

“The consumer price outlook looks relatively modest,” Chris Christopher, director of consumer economics at research and forecasting firm IHS Global Insight, said in a statement.

“Pump prices are expected to fall and food price increases seem well under control,” Christopher said. “Looking ahead, declining pump prices will help consumers deal with smaller paychecks due to the expiry of the payroll tax cut in January, and maintain stronger consumer mood.”

Drew DeSilver: 206-464-3145

or ddesilver@seattletimes.com

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