PhotoFalling gasoline prices helped push the cost of living lower in March.

Figures released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) show the Consumer Price Index (CPI) was down a seasonally adjusted 0.3% last month, the first one-month decline since February 2016.

The March decrease held price increases to 2.4% over the last 12 months.

Falling energy costs

Energy prices were down 3.2% in March following February's drop of 1.0%. Gasoline led the decline, plunging 6.2%, followed by natural gas (-0.8%) and electricity (-0.1%).

Over the last year, energy prices rose 10.9%, with gasoline surging 19.9%, natural gas up 10.3%, and electricity gaining 1.6%.

Food prices rise

The cost of food was up 0.3%, with grocery prices rising 0.5% following a 0.2% increase in February.

Four of the six major grocery store food groups rose, with fruits and vegetables gaining 1.6%, and cereals & bakery products and meats, poultry, fish & eggs both up 0.3%. In contrast, the cost of dairy and related products fell 0.6% and nonalcoholic beverage prices slipped 0.1%.

Core inflation

The “core” inflation rate, which strips out the volatile food and energy categories was down 0.1% last month, and up 2.0% over the past 12 months.

The March decline came as communication prices fell 3.5%, along with drops in the costs of used cars and trucks (-0.9%), new vehicles (-0.3%), and clothing (0.7%).

Price increases were registered in housing (+0.1%), medical care (+0.1%), motor vehicle insurance (+1.2%), tobacco (+0.5%), airline fares (+0.4%), and alcoholic beverages (+0.2%).

Recreation, education, and household furnishings & operations costs were unchanged.

The complete report is available on the BLS website

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