Wasatch Front CPI sees biggest month-to-month drop in more than three years as transportation prices slip

Zions Bank Logo 01The Zions Bank Wasatch Front Consumer Price Index (CPI) fell 0.5 percent from January to February on a non-seasonally adjusted basis — the biggest month-to-month drop in 39 months. Year-over-year, the Wasatch Front Consumer Price Index has grown 3.9 percent, while the national Consumer Price index has increased 1.5 percent since February of last year.

Slipping transportation costs were the largest factor in the overall decrease in Wasatch Front prices since January. Transportation prices fell 3.6 percent in February, their largest month-to-month slump since March 2018 and the eighth consecutive month of declining prices in the sector.  Transportation prices include both the cost of gasoline and the cost of vehicles, both of which recorded February declines. Gas prices along the Wasatch Front are at their lowest point since December 2016.

Housing and recreation costs both inched up in February, by 0.3 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively.  Both housing and medical care prices have experienced large year-over-year leaps, with housing prices increasing 8.3 percent and medical care prices growing 11.7 percent since February 2018. Comparatively, transportation prices saw their first year-over-year drop since April 2017, ticking down 1.6 percent.

“The decrease in gas prices has ripple effects in the economy as shipping and transportation costs decrease,” said Randy Shumway, chairman and partner at Cicero Group.  “Overall goods prices tend to become cheaper as transportation costs decrease.”

Meanwhile, Utahns are spending more of their income on housing.

“The average Utahn spends 38.7 percent of their monthly expenditure on housing costs, which is the highest percentage measured since July 2010,” Shumway said. “The clearest cause remains Utah’s strong and steady job market.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Utah’s 12-month job growth has been higher than three percent every January since 2014. And unemployment, similarly, has stayed below four percent since March 2014.

Analysis and data collection for the Zions Bank CPI and the Zions Bank Consumer Attitude Index are provided by Cicero Group, a premier management consulting firm based in Salt Lake City. This month’s Zions Bank Utah Consumer Attitude Index will be released March 26.