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Energy costs rose in March for the first time since last November, pushing the Department of Labor's (DOL) Consumer Price Index (CPI) up 0.1%. That increase put the rate of inflation over the last 12 months at 0.9%.

The increase of 0.9% in energy costs was the first in four months and was led by gasoline (+ 2.2%), followed by fuel oil (+1.7) -- the first advance since May -- and electricity (+0.4%). Natural gas prices dipped 0.7%.

The rise in energy was partially offset by a drop of 0.2% in the cost of food. The food at home category fell 0.5%, thanks to declines in fruits and vegetables (-1.9%), cereals and bakery products (-0.6%), dairy and related products (-0.5%), and meats, poultry, fish, and eggs along with nonalcoholic beverages -- both down 0.3%. The only increase was 0.5% for a category called “other food at home.”

The “core” rate of inflation, which excludes the volatile food and energy components was up just 0.1% in March -- the smallest increase since August -- and is up 2.2% over the last 12 months. Prices for shelter, recreation, medical care, education, tobacco, and personal care were among those that rose. The costs of apparel, airline fares, communication, household furnishings and operations, and used cars and trucks were lower.

The complete March CPI report is available on the DOL website.

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Jobless claims

A milestone of sorts for initial jobless claims.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports first time applications for state unemployment benefits fell by 13,000 in the week ending April 9 to a seasonally-adjusted 253,000. That's the 58th straight week of claims staying below 300,000, the longest streak since 1973.

At the same time, the four-week moving average, which strips out the weekly compilation’s volatility and is considered a more accurate measure of the labor market, came in at 265,000 -- a drop of 1,500 from the previous week. That's the lowest level since November 2000.

The full report may be found on the BLS website.


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