Although Utah healthcare costs are rising more slowly than the national average, they were the main driver in a 0.2 percent hike in consumer prices from October to November, according to the Zions Bank Wasatch Front Consumer Price Index (CPI). The index has now crawled ahead of the Fed’s national inflation target of 2 percent, sitting at a 2.1 percent increase in the past year. The national Consumer Price Index decreased 0.2 percent from October to November and has grown 1.7 percent over the past year.
The increase in Utah’s overall CPI was driven by higher prices for food away from home and medical care, which rose 2.9 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively. Food-away prices rose as prices for full-service meals, fast food and snacks increased. Medical care prices increased as rates for services rose. Medical care prices have increased 2.3 percent over the past year in Utah, compared to the national annual increase of 4.0 percent.
“Medical care prices are rising across the nation and Utah is no exception to this trend,” said Scott Anderson, Zions Bank president and CEO. “That being said, Utah healthcare prices are rising at a relatively slower clip, remaining affordable for consumers largely because we have one of the most efficient healthcare systems in the nation.”
The increase in Utah’s overall CPI was also driven by higher prices in the following categories:
• Transportation prices increased 0.3 percent, bolstered by higher gasoline, airfare, car insurance and public transit prices.
• Clothing prices increased 0.3 percent as prices for men’s and women’s apparel rose.
• Recreation prices increased 0.3 percent as prices for pets and pet products rose.
• Food-at-home prices increased 0.2 percent, driven by higher prices for tomatoes, pears and meats.
Utah’s price increases were slightly offset by lower prices in the following sectors:
• Education and communication prices declined 3.0 percent as rates for telephone services dipped slightly.
• Prices for other goods and services fell 1.2 percent as prices for personal care and hygiene products decreased.
• Utilities prices declined 0.1 percent as lower winter water rates more than offset higher gas rates.
“Annual inflation both nationally and in Utah is again hovering around the Federal Reserve’s target of 2 percent,” said Randy Shumway, CEO of Cicero Group, the market research firm that conducts the CPI index research for Zions Bank. “This signals strong economic conditions as growing demand for goods and services continues to sustainably fuel business expansion.”