On the heels of five straight months of price hikes, the cost of living for Wasatch Front residents finally took a breather in December, down 0.5 percent, says a report released Wednesday.

According to First Security Bank's monthly Wasatch Front Cost of Living Report, local price increases for utilities, groceries, housing and eating out were more than offset by declines in the costs of transportation and clothing. Health-care costs were stable for the month.First Security economist Kelly K. Matthews said that while inflation was down slightly along the Wasatch Front in December, there was no change, on a non-seasonally adjusted basis, for the nation as a whole, as reported Wednesday for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The Wasatch Front Inflation Index, beginning at 100 when reporting began in March 1988, was measured at 106.8 in December, well below the 114.3 inflation index as calculated nationally from the same base month.

Nationally, consumer prices rose 0.3 percent in December, pushing inflation for all of 1990 to 6.1 percent, the highest in nine years, the Labor Department said. And in another report, industrial production fell 0.6 percent in December, and output was off 1.4 percent for the year.

Here's how the various categories fared locally in December:

GROCERIES - Food prices rose 2.3 percent. Price drops for shelf items were offset by increases for alcoholic beverages, produce and meat.

Meat prices were up 3.2 percent, led by ground beef, which rose 7.3 percent. Chicken reversed its November downward trend to rise 8.7 percent. It was the third consecutive month of price increases for meat.

Produce was up 3.6 percent, the second month of increases, led by carrots, up 20.3 percent, the second month of price hikes.

UTILITIES - Residential utility bills rose 2.5 percent in December, the second month of higher costs. A second month of higher natural gas rates - up 4.5 percent - was blamed. Electric rates have been stable for the past nine months and water rates have not moved over the past four months.

HOUSING - Local housing costs, measured by rents, rose for a third month, up 0.4 percent in December. Since March 1988, housing costs are up 6.5 percent locally with 4.8 percent coming in the past six months.

RESTAURANTS - The cost of eating out locally was up 0.1 percent in December, led by higher prices for beef dishes. Since March 1988, prices are up 6.1 percent with a larger 7.1 percent in the past six months.

TRANSPORTATION - Breaking a seven-month upward trend, local transportation costs fell 5.0 percent in December. Higher costs for insurance and maintenance were offset by lower gasoline prices. Since the reports began, transportation costs have soared 20.7, 15.4 percent of that in the past six months.

CLOTHING - Clothing costs were down 2.5 percent locally in December. Maintenance costs were up, but lower price tags for men's, women's and children's apparel offset them. Clothing costs are up 2.2 percent since March, 1988 with a larger 4.8 percent increase over the last six months.


(Additional information)

Cost of living index

December 1990


Index Non-Seas Adj.

Mar. 1988=100 6 mos. prior Nov.

All Categories 106.8 5.6% -0.5%

Housing 106.5 4.8% 0.4%

Transportation 120.7 15.4% -5.0%

Health Care 107.8 1.2% 0.0%

Food at Home 119.6 4.7% 2.3%

Clothing 102.2 4.8% -2.5%

Food Away 106.1 7.1% 0.l%

Utilities 96.1 8.0% 2.5%

Other 103.8 2.4% -0.2%


Index Non-Seas Adj. Seas adj.

Mar. 1988=100 6 mos. prior Nov. Nov.

All categories 114.3 2.9% 0.0% 0.3%

Housing 111.4 1.7% 0.1% 0.2%

Transportation 117.6 7.5% 0.2% 0.5%

Health Care 122.8 4.5% 0.5% 0.7%

Food at Home 115.9 1.7% 0.0% 0.1%

Clothing 113.6 1.9% -1.7% 0.5%

Food Away 112.3 1.7% 0.2% 0.3%

Utilities 110.0 0.6% -0.2% -0.4%

Other 121.0 4.3% 0.6% 0.7%