Sunday, August 16, 2009

School fees, health costs cancel fall in other prices

WASHINGTON — For Americans who want to see their doctor or send their kids to college, the costs of doing so are rising, even as prices for many basic goods — such as food and housing — fall.
The most recent Labor Department report on the Consumer Price Index showed that inflation was nonexistent in July. Consumer prices fell 2.1 percent from the previous year, the biggest decline in almost 60 years, mostly because of plunging energy prices — down 28.1 percent since peaking in July 2008.

Still, even excluding the volatile food and energy sectors, so-called "core" prices rose only 0.1 percent in July and by only 1.5 percent in the past year.

Health-care and education costs both rose more, as they have for years.

The cost of medical care increased by 3.2 percent in the past year, the government's report said, as the price of hospital services jumped 6.5 percent.

Education costs, which include tuition and child care, rose 5.6 percent in the past year. The price of textbooks and supplies jumped 8.4 percent, the department said.

Here are some other details of the consumer price report, by the numbers.

Good grocery news

1.3 percent: July drop in meat, poultry, fish and egg prices

0.6 percent: Drop in prices for dairy and related products

0.3 percent: Drop in fruit and vegetable prices

Sorry, smokers and drinkers

0.3 percent: July increase in alcoholic beverage prices

2.2 percent: Rise in tobacco prices

Eat out or stay home?

-0.5 percent: July change in "food at home" prices

+0.1 percent: July change in "food away from home" prices

Pay more to fly, less to stay

-2.1 percent: July drop in prices for "lodging away from home"

2.1 percent: Rise in airline fares

Ladies pay more, men pay less

-0.7 percent: Change in price of men's and boys' apparel

+1.2 percent: Change in women's and girls' apparel

You won't believe these prices

+0.5 percent: July change in prices for new cars

0 percent: July change in prices for used cars

Pricier in July

0.5 percent: Increase in price of telephone services

1.1 percent: Increase in price of shoes

0.6 percent: Increase in water, sewer and trash collection services

What got cheaper?

3.2 percent: Drop in prices for personal computers

0.3 percent: Drop in cost of household gas and electricity

0.8 percent: Drop in gas prices

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