Local Costs Increased A Slight 0.2% in March

Consumer prices in New York and northeastern New Jersey rose two- tenths of 1 percent in March, less than the nationwide increase of five-tenths of 1 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said yesterday.

Samuel M. Ehrenhalt, the regional commissioner of the bureau, said that the rise of two-tenths of 1 percent in the Consumer Price Index on a non-seasonally adjusted basis was ”a very moderate rate of increase; overall inflation is still very much in check.”

The increase in prices in the region – which was four-tenths of 1 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis – was caused primarily by a sharp 1.1 percent upturn in gasoline prices, the first in six months, according to Mr. Ehrenhalt. Food and beverage prices rose three-tenths of 1 percent for the month, largely because of an increase of four-tenths of 1 percent in grocery store prices.

3.7 Percent Rise in a Year

Last month’s rise compared with an increase of six-tenths of 1 percent in February. For the last 12 months, prices have increased 3.7 percent in the region, which includes five New York counties outside New York City and eight counties in New Jersey.

The Government said that it cost $31.09 in March to buy goods that cost $10 in 1967.

”There were a number of areas of improvement in March, but it was not all peaches and cream,” Mr. Ehrenhalt said.

He noted that prices for produce did not increase as fast last month as they had in February and that prices were lower for furniture, household appliances and linens. Homeowner costs were down slightly, but renters’ costs were up two-tenths of 1 percent. Women’s apparel prices were up a sharp 4.7 percent last month, and footwear was up 2.6 percent.

Energy Prices Increase

Overall energy prices were up six- tenths of 1 percent, mostly because of the increase in gasoline prices. Prices of natural gas increased 1.4 percent, while electricity charges were stable and fuel oil prices, reflecting the end of the winter heating season, were three-tenths of 1 percent lower.

Medical care prices were up four- tenths of 1 percent, with prescription drugs, physicians’ fees and health-insurance premiums all increasing. Public transportation was up 1.2 percent as airline fares increased. The rise in gasoline prices sent private transportation costs up despite drops in auto finance charges brought on by lower interest rates.

Among the food groups, the index for meat, poultry and fish was down slightly, and dairy products were cheaper by one-half of 1 percent. Cereals and bakery products rose one- half of 1 percent, as did the price of alcoholic beverages. Food eaten away from the home was up slightly, and entertainment costs were nine-tenths of 1 percent higher.

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