A rise in local transportation costs, the first since last summer, nudged the overall cost of living for Wasatch Front residents up 0.7 percent in April, First Security Bank reported Thursday.

The increase broke an overall trend of declining inflation locally as the cost of living in Utah had gone down four out of the past five months, said Kelly K. Matthews, executive vice president and chief economist for the bank, which tracks local prices."Price jumps in transportation and groceries were key reasons for the increase," said Matthews. Clothing costs also moved up last month.

The national cost of living increased only 0.2 percent in April, according to figures also released Thursday by the U.S. Labor Department. Increases in tobacco, lettuce and hotel rates were cited for the rise.

Modest though it was, the national uptick in prices was the largest jump in the consumer price index in six months, the Labor Department said. Lower energy costs had held the index down over the past four months.

For January through April, consumer costs were increasing at a benign 0.9 percent nationwide. Analysts are now predicting inflation for 1998 will be around 1.7 percent, unchanged from last year.

Immediately after the national report's release, prices dropped a bit in the inflation-sensitive bond market, pushing long-term interest rates slightly higher.

In Utah, the cost of living has increased 34.5 percent since First Security began tracking local costs in 1988. Nationally, costs have risen 39.5 percent during the same 10 years.

Here are how the various spending categories fared in April along the Wasatch Front:

GROCERIES - Prices increased 2.1 percent in April, continuing the March trend. Decreases in prices of alcoholic beverages were offset by higher prices for produce, meat and shelf items. Nationally, grocery prices were unchanged.

TRANSPORTATION - Expenses rose 2.4 percent, boosted by higher gasoline prices. Nationally, prices were up 0.1 percent. Over the past six months, local costs have gone down 3.5 percent compared to the same period a year ago.

CLOTHING - Costs rose 0.1 percent after declining in March. Nationwide, costs rose 0.7 percent in April.

HOUSING - Local costs were stable in April, compared with a 0.2 percent rise nationally. Over the past six months, local housing costs have moved up 1.5 percent over the same period last year. Since 1988, local housing costs have increased 69.6 percent, nearly double the average rise of 34.5 percent.

RESTAURANTS - The cost of eating out along the Wasatch Front was stable for the second consecutive month. Prices nationally rose 0.2 percent in April.

UTILITIES - For the ninth consecutive month, local residential utility bills were stable in April. Nationally, they moved down 0.1 percent.

HEALTH CARE - Expenses were stable for the month. Nationally, a 0.4 percent rise was reported.

MISCELLANEOUS - Costs rose 0.2 percent following three stable months. Higher entertainment costs were cited.



Cost of living index

April 1998 Wasatch Front

... Index % chance (non-seas.adj)

... Mar. 1988=100 6 mos.* 1 mo. prior

All categories 134.5 1.0 0.7

Housing 169.6 1.5 0.0

Transportation 114.1 -3.5 2.4

Health care 140.5 1.5 0.0

Food at home 147.2 4.6 2.1

Clothing 120.0 -1.2 0.1

Food away 146.4 2.4 0.0

Utilities 94.6 1.0 0.0

Other 129.3 3.3 0.2

April 1998 National

... Index % chance (non-seas.adj) (seas.adj.)

... Mar. 1988=100 6 mos.* 1 mo. prior 1 mo. prior

All categories 139.5 1.5 2.2 0.2

Housing 136.4 2.1 0.2 0.4

Transportation 132.7 -1.5 0.1 -0.1

Health care 176.6 2.9 0.4 0.4

Food at home 140.6 1.6 0.0 -0.1

Clothing 118.8 0.3 0.7 -0.1

Food away 133.3 2.1 0.2 0.2

Utilities 117.3 N/A -0.1 0.3

Other 174.4 5.4 1.0 1.0

*Last six-month percentage change compared with same period one year ago.

Courtesy of First Security Bank