Inflation in the Washington area continued to run well below the national level despite a 1.1 percent rise in consumer prices for the two-month period ending Nov. 30, the Labor Department reported yesterday.
For the 12-month period ending with November, area prices rose 10.5 percent. Nationally, consumer prices have risen 12.6 percent for the November-to-November period.
One of the biggest area price increases during the two-month period was the cost of transportation. As a result of rising fuel and auto prices, combined with the high cost of borrowing money, area transportation costs rose 2.4 percent.
Grocery store prices, according to the government, dropped by 0.3 percent in November, although that decrease was less than the 0.4 percent cut in consumer food costs that was reported for October.
The 12-month inflation figures for both the area and the nation also indicate that despite the high cost of housing in the Washington area, the national increases in housing costs have exceeded the comparable rate here.
Housing costs nationwide rose by 14.3 percent for the year ending November 30, although the increase in this area is only 9.8 percent. That comparison would be even more striking if it were not for a 20.5 percent increase here in the statistical category that includes hotel and motel rates.
However, government economists point out that the housing cost data is inadequate because it is based on Federal Housing Administration transactions. FHA mortgages are limited to $65.000. That figure excludes most Washington area purchases, which average more than $100,000 for new single houses and about $75,000 for resales.
The Consumer Price Index sets the increase in homeownership here for the 12 months ending Nov. 30 at 8.5 percent, although the national jump in the costs of owning a home rose by 18.3 percent.
The figures as skewed even further when it is noted that property taxes in the Washington area jumped by 7.8 percent this year, while property taxes nationwide decreased by 5.7 percent.
The cut in nationwide property taxes is attributed to Proposition 13 in California and other similar tax cutting measures enacted in other states.
Yet, food prices here in November dropped by 0.3 percent, primarily as a result in decreases in the price of cereal and bakery products, fruits and vegetables.
Furthermore, the cost of dairy products, which had risen 2.1 percent in October, jumped by only 0.2 percent in November. Grocery purchases of cereal-related goods dropped by 0.6 percent in November, after rising by 0.4 percent in October.
But for the 12-month period, food prices here increased by 10.2 percent, slightly higher than the national figure. Fruit and vegetable prices here jumped by 19.7 percent, compared to 9.1 percent nationwide, a problem due to the high cost of shipping produce.
Comparatively, the cost of apparel and unkeep rose by 8.8 percent here during the 12-month period, while jumping by only 4.6 percent nationwide.
Transportation costs rose by 15.7 percent here for the 12-month period, while increasing at a rate of 17.5 percent across the country. But at the same time, public transit costs here rose by 22.1 percent during the same period, increasing by 14.1 percent across the country.
Rising Metro costs and a recent increase in taxi fares are considered the reasons for the sharp rise in the costs of public transportation.