The cost of living went down for Wasatch Front residents in July, a welcome relief from two straight months of increases.
First Security Corp. said Tuesday its monthly inflation index showed consumer prices dropping 0.4 percent for Utah communities from Ogden to Provo.Conversely, figures released Tuesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics show the national Consumer Price Index going precisely the other direction, logging a 0.4 percent increase. Both figures are non-seasonally adjusted.
First Security economist Kelly K. Matthews said Utah's figures, if annualized, would equal a 4.8 percent deflation rate for July.
For the past three months, consumer costs along the Wasatch Front have increased 0.1 percent, according to the report. But on a national scale, over the past five months, costs locally have gone down 0.5 percent while the U.S. CPI has risen 2.0 percent.
The bank holding company said local increases last month in the costs of food eaten at home, health care and utilities, were countered by decreases in costs of eating out, clothing, housing and transportation.
Housing costs were down in July for the first time since First Security began issuing its cost of living report five months ago. The decrease in housing costs was 1.3 percent, compared with an increase of 0.4 percent nationally. On a five-month basis, local housing costs were down 0.7 percent. Matthews said lower rental rates were part of the reason.
Going the other way were health care costs, which have registered monthly increases since March. For July, the increase was 0.5 percent, compared with a 0.8 percent jump nationally.
"A second month of higher costs for a doctor's care was accompanied by a third month of higher dental costs and higher prices for non-prescription medicines," said Matthews. Health care costs locally have risen 2.6 percent since March.
Residential utility bills were up 0.2 percent in July, said First Security, following two months of no change. "Higher water bills were responsible for the increase," said Matthews, "as they rose 1.5 percent due to an increase in the minimum charge."
Over the past five months, however, overall utility costs are down 4.9 percent.
Matthews said impact of the national drought on local food prices were mixed in July. Costs for eating at home were up 2.0 percent, compared with a 1.3 percent jump nationally. But local restaurant prices were down 2.1 percent for the month.
Overall prices of grocery items rose 2.9 percent last month with eggs showing a sharp 38.5 percent increase, flour up 25.3 percent, toilet tissue up 20.6 percent, shortening up 4.6 percent and butter up 2.1 percent.
After two months of decreases, produce costs increased 2.5 percent in July, led by carrots, up 34.0 percent, potatoes up 20.4 percent and onions up 10.6 percent. Lettuce prices were down 14.6 percent.
Meat prices rose 1.7 percent last month led by beef which rose 31.6 percent and chicken up 10.2 percent, the second monthly increase. Pork prices fell 18.2 percent.
Over the past five months, local prices of food bought at grocery stores were up 0.8 percent while restaurant prices increased 1.1 percent.
Transportation costs fell for the third consecutive month in July, down 0.1 percent.