Consumers paid more for food and shelter last month but the cost of heating homes fell sharply. The Labor Department’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased by 0.4% after a 0.5% rise in January.
Natural gas prices plunged 8% last month but are still 14% higher than 12 months ago. The cost of fuel oil dropped 7.9% while remaining 9.2% higher than a year ago.
The cost of electricity rose last month, but not by much. Electric bills were 0.5% higher than in January but consumers are paying 12.9% more for electricity than in February 2022.
Motorists also saw another small increase in prices at the pump. The cost of gasoline was up 1% over January but compared to 12 months ago, gas prices were down 1.2%.
Food costs rose 0.4% in February, perhaps causing consumers the most inflationary pain. It was still cheaper to eat at home last month. The price of food purchased at a store and consumed at home rose 0.3% while food consumed at bars, restaurants and convenience stores rose 0.4%. Overall food costs were 9.5% higher than a year ago.
High cost of shelter
There was also little relief for people renting an apartment or buying a home. Shelter costs rose 0.8%, slightly more than in January.
Used car prices continued to fall last month, registering a 2.8% decline, and were 13% cheaper than a year ago. New vehicle prices continued to rise as dealers continued to mark up cars and trucks over the sticker price.
Taking everything into consideration, consumer prices are 6% higher than they were a year ago, well off their peak last June.