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The cost of living crept upward in May, with energy prices moving higher for a third straight month.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the Consumer Price Index rose 0.2%, and is up just 1.0% for the 12 months ending in May.

The cost of energy was a major factor, jumping 1.2% in May -- its third increase in a row. Contributors were the prices of gasoline (+2.3%), fuel oil (+6.2%), and natural gas (+1.7%). Electricity, on the other hand, dipped 0.2%. Energy prices have plunged 10.1% over the past 12 months, with all major components falling over the span.

Food prices, meanwhile were down 0.2%, with the “food at home” category -- grocery prices -- falling 0.5%, the fifth decline in the last seven months. All the major grocery store food group prices were lower in May, including fruits and vegetables (-0.7%), dairy and related products (-0.6%), and meats, poultry, fish, and eggs (-0.5%), the ninth consecutive monthly decline.

The cost of food has risen 0.7% over the last year, with the index for food at home down 0.7% and food away from home (restaurant meals) rising 2.6%.

Core inflation

The CPI less the volatile food and energy categories increased 0.2%. The cost of shelter was up 0.4%, with medical care, apparel, motor vehicle insurance, and education prices also increasing. This “core rate” of inflation is up 2.2% over the past 12 months, with over 60% of the increase resulting from rising shelter costs.

The complete CPI report may be found on the BLS website.

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Initial claims

Separately, the Department of Labor (DOL) reports a jump in first-time applications for state unemployment benefits.

Initial jobless claims shot up by 13,000 in the week ending June 11 to a seasonally adjusted total of 277,000. That kept claims below the 300,000 mark for the 67th consecutive week -- the longest streak since 1973.

The four-week moving average, a less volatile measure, was down 250 from the previous week -- to 269,250. This is seen as a more accurate barometer of the labor market.

The full report is available on the DOL website.

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