City officials are touting the Provo area's cost of living as the lowest in the country, based on a recent report comparing costs in more than 250 U.S. cities.

The report, prepared by the American Chamber of Commerce Researchers Association, is good news for Utah County, local economic development officials say.

The association's inter-city cost of living index for the fourth quarter of 1987--the latest period for which data is available--shows Provo's cost of living was 12.5 percent less than the national average during that period.

The index measures the differences between cities in the costs of consumer goods and services, excluding taxes and non-consumer expenditures, for a middle-class standard of living.

Provo's 1987 fourth-quarter living costs were 87.5 percent of the national average, and were identified by the report as the country's overall lowest. The most expensive U.S. city identified in the index was Boston, where living costs were 152 percent of the national average for the period.

"What this means for Utah County residents is that we enjoy a better lifestyle for the same amount of money spent," said Gary Golightly, director of Provo's Economic Development Department.

The index is based on 59 standard items in six categories for which prices are collected quarterly by local chambers of commerce or similar organizations in each participating city. Cost data is collected from cities of all population sizes throughout the country.

On a scale in which 100 represents the nationwide average, the index rated grocery costs in Provo at 86--the country's lowest. Anchorage, Alaska, was rated highest at 134.

Provo's housing costs were rated 72.4 or 27.6 lower than the national average. Housing costs in Gadsden, Ala. were lowest at 70.1, while Boston's were highest at 261.

Utility costs in Provo were rated 90 on the index. Seattle was least expensive at 57.4. New York was most expensive at 186. Transportation costs as Provo were 99.7, while Sherman, Texas was lowest at 85 and West Palm Beach, Fla., highest at 123.

Provo's health care costs were rated at 92.7 on the index. Fayetteville, Ark., was least expensive at 72 and Anchorage most expensive at 196. Miscellaneous costs for Provo were 92. Sharon, Pa., was lowest with a 86.4 rating, while Anchorage again was highest at 130.6.

"Our cost of living is a real selling point as far as attracting industry to the area is concerned." Golightly said. "People need to know they can move their businesses here and have a positive lifestyle for themselves and their employees."

Comparisons of the index ratings for overall living costs in western U.S. cities show Salt Lake City at 98 percent of the national average. Las Vegas was 102 percent. Denver 103, Phoenix and Sacramento 107, Seattle 108 and San Diego 124.

The association cautions that the index is a reasonably accurate measurement of the inter-city cost of living differences, but is not precise. The index does not measure inflation, and differences of 3 percent or less should not be interpreted as showing measurable difference.

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Additional Information

Cost of living

(national average = 100)

Provo Salt Lake

All items 87.5 98.3

Food 86.0 93.1

Housing 72.4 89.4

Utilities 89.9 96.4

Transportation 99.7 104.9

Health care 92.7 100.5

Miscellaneous 92.1 105.0