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Originally published July 16, 2013 at 11:33 AM | Page modified July 17, 2013 at 11:14 AM

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Seattle sees slower rise in consumer prices than nation

Energy price increases offset dips in food, apparel costs

By Seattle Times staff and news services

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Uh, probably because were already 20% more expensive. MORE
Yeah good news for once. MORE

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Consumer prices in the Seattle area climbed just 1.4 percent over the past year, less than the national inflation rate of 1.8 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Tuesday.

Driven by higher gasoline prices, inflation here rose 0.8 percent during the past two months.

Unlike consumer prices nationwide, which are tracked monthly, prices for metro areas such as Seattle are measured every other month. They are not adjusted for seasonal variations.

Seattle-area gasoline prices increased 4.2 percent for the two months ending in June but were down 5 percent over the past year.

Food prices dipped 0.7 percent from April to June, while energy costs rose 2.4 percent, eased by cheaper household gas and stable electricity expenses.

Excluding food and energy costs, so-called core prices increased 1 percent. Medical costs surged 2.5 percent, and housing rents ticked up 0.7 percent.

Spring clothing apparently came at a bargain: Apparel prices dropped 3.2 percent from April and 0.5 percent from a year ago.

Nationwide, overall prices increased 0.5 percent in June from May. Two-thirds of the increase came from a 6.3 percent jump in gas prices, the largest since February.

Inflation has been stable this year, giving the Federal Reserve room to continue efforts to stimulate the economy.

Core prices are up just 1.6 percent over the past year — the smallest 12-month change in two years.

Slow economic growth and high unemployment have kept wages from rising quickly. That has made it harder for retailers and other firms to raise prices.

Tame inflation also has helped consumers up their spending despite slow income growth and higher Social Security taxes.

In June, prices for all energy products nationwide rose 3.4 percent mostly because of the surge in gasoline costs. Beyond that, other prices were little changed.

The gas-price surge was driven by a jump in global oil prices, partly reflecting the political turmoil in Egypt. Chris Christopher Jr., director of consumer economics at Global Insight, said pump prices are likely to fall once conditions stabilize in Egypt.

Seattle Times staff reporter Amy Martinez and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Amy Martinez: 206-464-2923 or amartinez@seattletimes.com. On Twitter: @amyemartinez

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