Falling Gas Prices Slow Rise in US Consumer Costs

Posted June 15th, 2011 at 10:30 am (UTC-5)
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Falling gas prices helped slow the U.S. inflation rate last month.

A report Wednesday from the Labor Department says overall consumer prices rose two-tenths of a percent in May, down from April's four-tenths of a percent increase. The first drop in energy prices in nearly a year contributed to the slowing.

But taking out the volatile areas of energy and food, prices in the economy rose three-tenths of a percent last month, the most in nearly three years. Economists call this a measure of “core” inflation. The Labor Department says price increases for clothing, housing, new vehicles and recreation all contributed to the growth.

From a year earlier, consumer prices rose by 3.6 percent — the biggest one-year increase since October 2008. So-called “core” prices rose 1.5 percent over the year, still within the Federal Reserve's comfort zone.

Officials at the U.S. central bank have said the recent rise in food and gas prices would likely be temporary, and not spark inflation in the larger economy. The Federal Reserve fights inflation by raising interest rates.

Slower inflation would leave Americans with more money to spend to boost the economy. Consumer spending drives most U.S. economic activity.