The cost of living for Wasatch Front residents went down for the third consecutive month in February, led by decreases in the costs of groceries, transportation and utilities, a survey showed Tuesday.

Kelly K. Matthews, chief economist for First Security Corp., which issues the monthly inflation report, said local costs declined 0.9 percent last month while overall prices nationally rose 0.2 percent.Matthews said the Wasatch Front Inflation Index - from a base of 100 when the reports began in March 1988 - increased to 104.5 in February, well below the national index of 115.0 calculated from the same base month. For the past six months, overall inflation locally was down 0.1 percent.

Here's how the various spending categories fared during February:

- Groceries: Food costs declined 0.5 percent, identical to the national figures released Tuesday, and the second month in a row of lower grocery prices. Price hikes for alcoholic beverages were offset by decreases for meat, produce and shelf items. Since March 1988, overall local grocery costs have increased 17.9 percent, with 1.5 percent of that coming in the past six months.

Meat prices were down 5.4 percent in February, led by pork, down 13.5 percent. Beef franks were down 3.6 percent.

Produce prices fell 3.7 percent, also continuing January's trend.

- Utilities: Residential utility bills ended a three-month upward trend in February with a 0.9 percent decline. Nationally, utility bills were down 0.1 percent. Lower natural gas bills led the way in Utah - down 1.5 percent - as they also broke a three-month pattern of increases. Electric power bills were stable for the eleventh consecutive month. Water bills have been stable for six months.

- Transportation: Local transportation costs were down 7.1 percent in February, the third month of declines. Nationally, a 1.4 percent decrease was reported. The report credits a third month of lower gasoline prices as well as a second month of lower auto maintenance costs.

- Health care: Health-care costs locally were up 0.5 percent in February, compared with an increase of 4.6 percent nationally. It was the second month of local increases.

- Restaurant food: The cost of eating out along the Wasatch Front rose for the fourth month in a row, up 1.2 percent in February, compared with a 0.3 percent rise nationwide.

- Housing: Housing costs, based on rents, were up 1.7 percent last month after declining in January. Nationally, a 0.5 percent increase was reported.

- Clothing: For the second month, local clothing costs rose in February, up 2.3 percent. Lower price tags for menswear were offset by higher prices on children's clothing and women's apparel.


Cost of living index

February 1991 Wasatch Front


Mar 1988=100 6 Mos. Prior Feb.

All Categories 104.5 -0.1% -0.9%

Housing 107.9 4.2% 1.7%

Transportation 104.1 -14.1% -7.1%

Health Care 111.6 5.4% 0.5%

Food at Home 117.9 1.5% -0.5%

Clothing 109.7 4.8% 2.3%

Food Away 113.1 6.8% 1.2%

Utilities 95.5 11.3% -0.9%

Other 102.7 0.2% -0.4%



Mar 1988-100 6 Mos Prior Feb. Feb.

All Categories 115.0 2.3% 0.1% 0.2%

Housing 112.9 1.7% 0.5% 0.5%

Transportation 114.9 2.7% -1.4% -1.1%

Health Care 124.8 4.6% 0.9% 0.7%

Food at Home 117.3 2.3% -0.5% -0.5%

Clothing 114.3 3.4% 1.9% 1.6%

Food Away 112.7 1.4% 0.3% 0.3

Utilities 111.8 1.9% -0.1% -0.3% Other 122.7 4.3% 0.5% 0.7% Mar 1988=100 6 Mos. Feb.