The cost of living for Wasatch Front residents rose again in September, the third consecutive month of higher prices, First Security Corp. reported Thursday.

First Security economist Kelly K. Matthews said the financial institution's monthly Wasatch Front Cost of Living Report showed local prices increased 1.1 percent, compared with a non-seasonally adjusted increase of 0.8 percent nationally as reported Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.While local prices for clothing, restaurant food and housing went down, they were more than offset by increases for groceries, utilities, transportation and health care.

Despite the higher increases locally in September, the Wasatch Front Inflation Index shows Utah still below the national rate of inflation since First Security began the reports in March 1988. From a base of 100 in that month, the local inflation index was at 105.6 in September compared to 113.5 nationally.

Of that 5.6 percent inflation locally since March, 1988, 4.7 percent of it has come in the past six months.

Here's how the various spending categories fared locally in September:

GROCERIES - Food costs climbed 0.6 percent in September, the second month of higher prices. Produce costs were up 10.7 percent overall although onions were down 19.6 percent and potatoes reversed their August trend with an 18.0 percent decline. The cost of shelf items increased 0.2 percent overall as eggs climbed 5.3 percent and refried beans were up 3.3 percent. Bread prices declined 7.7 percent, flour was down 6.0 percent and laundry detergent dropped 7.1 percent. After decreasing in August, alcoholic beverages were up 1.2 percent.

Meat prices declined 1.9 percent led by pork, down 11.9 percent, while beef was up 4.5 percent. Since March, 1988, overall food prices have jumped 17.0 percent locally with 2.0 percent coming in the past six months.

UTILITIES - Residential utility bills increased 7.5 percent locally in September, reversing an August downward trend. Natural gas bills that rose 14.9 percent for the month were cited. Electric rates remained stable for the sixth consecutive month; water rates were also stable. Utility costs are down 8.3 percent since the reports began with 2.6 percent of the decrease coming in the past six months.

HEALTH CARE - Wasatch Front health-care costs were up 1.6 percent last month, following a decline in August. Higher prices for non-prescription drugs were cited, as were higher costs for hospital and doctor's care. Health-care costs are 7.8 percent higher since March 1988, with 5.2 percent coming in the past six months.

RESTAURANT FOOD - For the second consecutive month, the cost of eating out declined along the Wasatch Front, down 0.6 percent. Lower prices for beef main dishes were cited. Restaurant prices are up 5.7 percent since the reports began, with 0.4 percent coming in the past six months.

HOUSING - Following eight straight months of increases, local housing expenses (measured by rent rates) were down 0.6 percent in September. Since the reports began, Wasatch Front housing expenses have increased 3.6 percent with a higher 3.8 percent increase seen in the past six months.

TRANSPORTATION - Transportation costs locally were up 3.3 percent in September, the fifth consecutive month of higher costs. A second month of lower auto maintenance costs was offset by a fifth month of higher gasoline prices. Since the reports began, local transportation costs have climbed 20.5 percent with virtually all of it, 20.6 percent, coming in the past six months.


(Additional information)

Cost of living index

Wasatch Front

Sept. 1990

Index Non-Seas. Adj.

Mar 1988=100 6 mos prior Aug.

All categories l05.6 4.7% 1.1%

Housing 103.6 3.8% -0.2%

Transportation 121.5 20.6% 3.3%

Health Care 107.8 5.2% 1.6%

Food at Home 117.0 2.0% 0.6%

Clothing 102.3 2.1% -2.6%

Food Away 106.7 -0.4% -0.6%

Utilities 91.7 -2.6% 7.5%

Other 103.0 1.8% 0.5%


Index Non-Seas Adj. Seas Adj.

Mar 1988=100 6 mos prior Aug. Aug.

All Categories 113.5 3.0% 0.8% 0.8%

Housing 111.4 2.8% 0.2% 0.4%

Transportation 114.2 5.2% 2.0% 2.3%

Health Care 120.7 4.4% 0.5% 0.7%

Food at Home 115.2 0.8% 0.2% 0.2%

Clothing 114.7 1.3% 3.8% 0.7%

Food Away 111.9 2.1% 0.2% 0.2%

Utilities 111.1 3.8% 1.2% 1.3%

Other 119.8 4.8% 1.4% -0.2%