The cost of living dropped 1.5 percent for Wasatch Front residents in January, the second month in a row of declining inflation.

That was the good news Wednesday from First Security Bank's monthly Wasatch Front Cost of Living Report. Kelly K. Matthews, the bank's chief economist, said the local decline compares favorably with the 0.6 percent increase in living costs reported nationally by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.While local prices for clothing, health care, utilities and eating out all went up, they were offset by declines in the prices of groceries, transportation and housing.

Matthews said the Wasatch Front Inflation Index - measured from 100 in March 1988 when the monthly reports began - was 105.4 in January, well below the 114.9 figure for the nation overall as calculated from the same base month. The report says 2.3 percent of the local 5.4 percent increase since March 1988 has come in the past six months.

Here's how the various categories fared locally in January.

GROCERIES - The cost of eating at home declined 1.2 percent in January, following two months of price hikes. Decreases were measured for produce, meat, alcoholic beverages and shelf items. Since March 1988, local food costs have gone up 18.4 percent, with 3.5 percent of that in the past six months.

Meat prices declined 3.1 percent in January after rising in the previous three months. Ground beef reversed its December trend by declining 5.4 percent. Beef franks declined 2.1 percent. Overall produce prices, after two months of increases, declined 5.1 percent in January. Celery was down 5.2 percent; onions were up 15.7 percent

Shelf items declined in price for the second month. Beans were down 6.2 percent; detergents declined 5.0 percent and jelly prices dropped 3.0 percent. Sugar was up 4.0 percent.

TAXES - Average taxes for a Wasatch Front family declined 1.4 percent in January following a decrease of 2.2 percent last year. Social Security (FICA) taxes were stable. Federal withholding taxes with average deductions decreased 2.6 percent this year.

HOUSING - Housing costs, measured by rents, declined 0.4 percent in January following three months of increases. Since March, 1988, housing costs are up 6.2 percent with 3.2 percent of that in the past six months.

TRANSPORTATION - Local transportation costs declined 9.5 percent in January, the second month of declines. A second month of higher auto insurance premiums was offset by a second month of lower prices for gasoline and auto maintenance. Over the life of the reports, transportation costs are up 11.2 percent with 1.1 percent of that coming in the past six months.

UTILITIES - Wasatch Front utility bills were up 0.2 percent in January, the third month of increases. A third month of higher natural gas bills - up 0.4 percent - was the cause. Electrical rates were stable for the 10th month in a row. Water rates have been stable for five months. Utilities costs have declined 3.6 percent since the reports began but are up 8.1 percent in the past six months.

HEALTH CARE - Health care costs were up 3.4 percent locally in January as higher costs were reported for doctor's care, dental care and non-prescription medicines. Since March, 1988, health care expenses have increased 11.1 percent with 4.3 percent of that in the past six months.

CLOTHING - Following two months of declines, clothing costs locally rose 5.2 percent in January. Since March, 1988, clothing costs are up 7.4 percent but a larger 11.2 percent rise has been seen in the past six months.



Cost-of-living index

January 1990

Wasatch Front

Index Non-Seas. Adj.

Mar. 1988=100 6 mos. Dec.


All Categories 105.4 2.2% -1.5%

Housing 106.2 3.2% -0.4%

Transportation 111.2 -1.1% -9.5%

Health Care 111.1 4.3% 3.4%

Food At Home 118.4 3.6% -1.2%

Clothing 107.4 11.2% 5.2%

Food Away 111.9 4.8% 5.8%

Utilities 96.4 8.1% 0.2%

Other 103.1 1.1% -0.7%


Index Non-seas. adj. Seas.Adj.

Mar. 1988=100 6 Mos. Dec. Dec.

All Categories 114.9 3.1% 0.6% 0.4%

Housing 112.4 2.0% 1.0% 0.8%

Transportation 116.3 6.0% -1.3% -1.2%

Health Care 123.9 4.6% 1.1% 0.6%

Food At Home 117.8 3.0% 1.9% 0.8%

Clothing 112.4 2.7% -1.2% 1.0%

Food Away 112.4 1.4% 0.1% 0.1%

Utilities 111.9 3.3% 1.9% 1.6%

Other 122.2 4.6% 1.2% 0.7%