Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Local CPI Rose Slightly in May; U.S. Figure Is Flat

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Local CPI Rose Slightly in May; U.S. Figure Is Flat

Article excerpt

Jacksonville's Consumer Price Index rose slightly in May, continuing a trend of mild inflation in the area, according to the University of North Florida's Leading Economic Indicators Project.

After rising by 0.14 percent in May, consumer prices over the first five months in the Jacksonville area rose at a moderate 1.44 percent rate, significantly below the national rate, according to LEIP.

Nationally, the U.S. Labor Department yesterday reported that consumer prices were flat in May, the best showing in five months, as lower costs for gasoline, clothes and cars eclipsed higher prices for medical care and air fares.

The tame reading for the U.S. Consumer Price Index, one of the government's most closely watched inflation gauges, came after prices shot up by 0.5 percent in April, the biggest jump in nearly a year.

For the first five months of this year, all U.S. consumer prices rose at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 3 percent. That compares with an increase of 1.6 percent for all of 2001. Much of the pickup reflects higher energy prices this year, which fell sharply last year.

In specific price categories in Jacksonville, footwear had the most dramatic increase in May, jumping by 13.6 percent after two consecutive monthly declines. Other price categories rose by 3 percent or less.

The biggest decrease in Jacksonville was in hospital and related services, which dropped 15 percent. Other apparel, which includes jewelry and watches, fell by 11.7 percent, the fifth straight monthly decline in that category. Motor vehicle parts and equipment fell by almost 11 percent.

Even as the economy mends from last year's recession, the inflation environment has remained well-behaved. That's good news for shoppers looking for some bargains and for the national economy as well, which is experiencing a choppy recovery.

One area of the economy that held up well during the slump and is continuing to do well is the nation's housing market, thanks to low mortgage rates.

In another report yesterday, the U.S. Commerce Department said housing construction soared by 11.6 percent in May, the biggest increase since July 1995. …

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