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Metro area prices rise on costs of medical care, rent

Overall, metro area consumer prices rose modestly in

Overall, metro area consumer prices rose modestly in July, but the price of clothing was down 1.4 percent year over year. Photo Credit: AP / Richard Drew

Consumer prices in the metropolitan area rose modestly in July compared with a year earlier despite large increases in the cost of medical care, residential rents, and education services such as tuition and day care.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics said Wednesday its consumer price index for the 25-county region that includes Long Island climbed 1.7 percent last month compared with July 2018.

The index posted an identical year-over-year rise in June.

The cost of medical care jumped 6.2 percent last month compared with July 2018, the largest year-over-year increase since November 1992, said Bruce Bergman, the bureau’s regional economist in Manhattan.

Residential rents were up 3.4 percent in July, year over year. Education services, including school tuition and daycare fees, rose 3.9 percent last month compared with July 2018.

The cost of groceries rose 0.1 percent, while automobile insurance was up 1.7 percent.

These increases were partially offset by declines in energy costs. Gasoline prices fell 3.2 percent year over year. Electricity costs dropped 4.1 percent, while natural gas prices fell 5.9 percent.

The price of clothing was down 1.4 percent last month compared with July 2018.

Nationally, the consumer price index rose 1.8 percent last month compared with a year ago. The higher costs of housing (up 3.5 percent, year over year) and medical care (up 3.3 percent) were partially offset by gasoline (down 3.3 percent).

Dean Baker, senior economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a Washington think tank, said: "The picture for inflation continues to be overwhelmingly benign with the major exception of rents and now quite possibly medical care. The latter is a special cause for concern since health care inflation appeared to be largely under control."

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