Wasatch Front residents enjoyed a second straight month of declining inflation in November as the cost of living dropped 0.5 percent, led by decreases in the local costs of transportation, groceries, utilities, housing and health care.
According to First Security Bank's monthly inflation index, released Tuesday, costs of some 500 goods and services in the Wasatch Front area - roughly Ogden to Provo - have decreased 1.2 percent over the past nine months, with 0.9 percent of that coming in the past six months.Kelly K. Matthews, First Security economist, said the local drop of 0.5 percent compares with an increase (non-seasonally adjusted) of 0.1 percent nationally as reported Tuesday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
On an annualized basis, he said, November's decrease in the local cost of living would equal 6.4 percent.
GROCERIES - Grocery costs dropped 0.6 percent in November, breaking a four-month upward trend. Increases in produce were offset by declines in meat, shelf items and alcoholic beverages. For the past nine months, costs of food eaten at home are up 3.8 percent, identical to the increase for the past six months.
Price increases for groceries on the Wasatch Front were led by a 5.0 percent jump in produce, led by lettuce, which soared 42.4 percent in price during November. Carrots and tomatoes were down 14 percent and 7.3 percent, respectively, while celery was up 13.3 percent. Meat prices declined 1.4 percent.
Prices of shelf items fell 0.5 percent during November, after four straight months of increases. Refried beans led the inflation for the second month in a row, up 6.9 percent; canned tomatoes up 6.0 percent; laundry detergent up 5.1 percent; mustard up 4.2 percent; cheese up 3.7 percent; milk up 2.9 percent, the third monthly increase in a row. Egg prices were down 7.4 percent, the second month of decline.
FOOD EATEN OUT - Of the seven major categories monitored by First Security, the cost of eating out showed the sharpest increase as restaurant prices jumped 1.4 percent in November following two months of decreases. Dishes prepared with beef, chicken and eggs reversed their October downward trend as did vegetable side dishes.
Over the past nine months, since the bank began monitoring local prices, the cost of eating out has dipped 0.3 percent, with a larger 1.9 percent drop over the past six months.
CLOTHING - Local clothing prices also increased in November, 1.0 percent, on the heels of increases in October. Higher prices for men's wear were blamed. Over the past nine months, clothing prices are down 0.9 percent, but for the past six months there has been a 1.3 percent increase.
HEALTH CARE - For the first time in eight months, health-care costs declined in November, by 0.2 percent. Lower prices on non-prescription drugs - following four months of price hikes - are the reason. For the nine months, health-care costs are up 3.2 percent with 1.2 percent in the past six months.
UTILITIES - Residential utility bills were down 0.5 percent locally, the second month of decreases. Electric bills led the decline as they dropped 2.1 percent. Gas and water bills were both stable. Over the past nine months, utility costs are down 2.0 percent locally but are up 3.1 percent for the six months.
HOUSING - Housing costs fell 0.4 percent in November, continuing their October trend. A second month of lower rents were the reason. Housing costs are down 3.3 percent and 3.6 percent for the nine and six months, respectively.
tRANSPORTATION - The cost of getting around the Wasatch Front was down for the third consecutive month in November, 2.8 percent. Higher costs for auto maintenance, following two months of declines, were offset by a third straight month of lower gasoline prices. For the nine months, transportation expenses have declined 4.7 percent, with a drop of 4.8 percent for the six months.