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Rent, natural gas costs push metro area price index up

Consumer prices in the metropolitan area increased last month compared with a year ago on the higher cost of natural gas, medical care and residential rent.

The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday that its consumer price index for the 31-county region that includes Long Island climbed 1.6 percent in December compared with December 2016.

The index also rose 1.6 percent in November, year over year.

Martin Kohli, the bureau’s chief regional economist, said the cost of natural gas and housing were key factors behind last month’s gain in prices.

Natural gas charges climbed 12 percent, year over year, he said. Residential rents were up 2.1 percent.

In addition, the cost of medical care continued to rise; it gained 2.2 percent in December compared with a year earlier.

Gasoline prices rose 8.9 percent, year over year. The cost of electricity increased 0.1 percent.

Grocery prices were up 2.1 percent compared with December 2016.

These increases were partially offset by the cost of clothing and education and communications commodities, including textbooks and personal computers, which declined 1.5 percent, year over year.

Durable goods prices were off 1.2 percent from December 2016.

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