Transportation, entertainment costs drive up Wasatch Front consumer price index

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The Zions Bank Wasatch Front Consumer Price Index (CPI) edged up 0.4% from July to August on a non-seasonally adjusted basis. Year over year, the Wasatch Front Consumer Price Index has grown 3.1%, while the national Consumer Price Index has increased 1.7% since August of last year.

Higher prices in the recreation and transportation sectors drove moderate inflation in August, with recreation expenses increasing 9.3% due to a jump in the price of cable and satellite TV. Additionally, seasonal fluctuations in vehicle prices and the end of a year-long dip in insurance rates brought transportation prices up 0.9% from July.

In a reversal of trend, the housing sector saw a dip in prices last month, falling 0.5% — the largest single-month drop since October 2017. The decline was due primarily to falling hotel and motel rates at the end of the summer travel season.

In part because it’s the largest monthly expense for most Utahns, housing remains the primary driver of the annual increase in the price index. The housing sector is up 4.5% since August 2018, with apartment rental rates up slightly more, at 5.5% year over year.

“It is not uncommon to see price spikes in a particular sector when providers adjust pricing for the new year,” said Randy Shumway, chairman and partner at Cicero Group. “We see this during the summer when auto companies transition to new model year cars.  We see it in other sectors, such as entertainment and with technology sales as well.”

Utah’s current level of price growth is expected and points to a positive outlook for the state, according to Scott Anderson, president and CEO of Zions Bank.

“Utah has one of the highest job growth and labor force participation rates in the United States, along with a very low unemployment rate,” Anderson said. “Our moderate inflation continues to be a sign of a growing economy.”

Analysis and data collection for the Zions Bank Wasatch Front Consumer Price Index and the Zions Bank Consumer Attitude Index are provided by Cicero Group, a premier management consulting firm based in Salt Lake City. The Zions Bank Utah Consumer Attitude Index will be released Sept. 24.