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Originally published January 16, 2014 at 10:55 AM | Page modified January 16, 2014 at 9:47 PM

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Inflation here holding below modest national rate

Consumer prices in the Seattle area were down 0.7 percent from their level in September and October. Inflation grew modestly in 2013.

Seattle Times business reporter

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Seattle-area inflation grew modestly in 2013 as consumer prices climbed 1.3 percent over the past year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Thursday.

Consumer prices in November and December were down 0.7 percent from their level in September and October, as prices for gasoline, apparel and recreation fell.

Nationally, consumer prices rose 1.5 percent over the year and 0.3 percent in December over the month. It’s the first time that the inflation index has grown less than 2 percent for consecutive years since the 1997-1998 period, the bureau reported.

The national inflation rate is reported monthly, while prices in metro areas such as Seattle are reported every other month and are not adjusted for seasonal variations. In measuring inflation, the bureau defines the Seattle metro area as King, Snohomish, Pierce, Kitsap, Island and Thurston counties.

Prices for food grew 0.2 percent from October to December and 1.4 percent over the year, with prices for food away from home rising five times faster than prices for food at home.

Energy prices fell 2.6 percent over the two months, but increased 0.4 percent over the year, driven by higher prices for electricity, a trend also seen nationally.

Prices for natural-gas service jumped 1.7 percent over the year, while those for gasoline declined 1.3 percent. Excluding food and energy prices, so-called core prices dipped 0.7 percent over the two months.

Prices for apparel fell 4.2 percent, recreation 2.5 percent and household furnishings 1.3 percent, but those declines were offset by higher prices for shelter, up 0.7 percent over the two months.

Core prices climbed 1.3 percent over the year, led principally by higher prices for shelter: Rents jumped 5.5 percent, while the “equivalent rents” homeowners paid to live in their homes was up 4.1 percent. The price of medical care rose 2 percent.

Nationally, core prices have risen 2 percent annually over the past decade, according to the bureau.

The medical care index rose 2 percent in 2013, the smallest annual increase since 1949.

Sanjay Bhatt: 206-464-3103 or On Twitter @sbhatt

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