Washington-area consumer prices continued to rise at record levels and outstripped the nation's average annual inflation rate by a full percentage point.
Prices here during February and March jumped 3 percent, which translates into a 19.2 percent annual price rise, the Labor Department said yesterday.
The jump was the largest increase locally since the federal government began keeping local statistics on a two-month basis at the beginning of 1978. The nation experienced average price increases during the last two months of 2.8 percent and annual inflation of 18.1 percent.
December and January had held the previous local record for the highest increase registering 2.9 percent.
However, the Carter Administration predicts that its anti-inflation policies will force a downturn in the economy around June and that the annual national inflation rate should drop to 12.8 percent by year's end.
Local banker Robert Tardio said that the Washington economy should follow the national pattern.
"We would hope the almost doubling of raw fuel costs, the price per barrel, will not occur in 1980," said Tardio, who heads the Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade business development bureau. He is also chief executive officer of Suburban Bancorporation.
"There won't be as great an escalation in fuel costs . . . Mortgage rates will tend to be lower this year so this will dampen the 19 percent to 20 percent (inflation) average," he said.
As usual for the past several months, gasoline and housing costs led all others and accounted for more than 75 percent of the increase, the Labor Department said.
Other costs which increased were men's and women's apparel, jewelry, food prices and medical costs, including dental services, the Labor Department said.
"I don't know that dental fees have gone up," said Michael Cady, executive director of the D.C. Dental Society. "I surmise that some costs can be attributed to the increase in costs of precious metals" such as silver. "The dentist has to pay more for that amalgam" and silver in X-rays.
Housing costs -- including mortgage interest rates, prices of homes, furnishings, fuel oil, natural gas and maintenance and repair -- rose 3.4 percent since January, reflecting Washington-area average mortgage interest rates that rose from 13.5 percent to 16.2 percent during the same time.
Food prices rose 1.4 percent as prices increased for fresh vegetables, beef, seafood and sugar while prices declined for eggs, poultry, bacon and coffee.
Apparel costs rose 5.5 percent.
Higher costs for gasoline, tires and automobile financing pushed transportation costs up 4.3 percent during the last two months. Private transportation prices rose 4.5 percent, while those of public transportation edged up by only 1.8 percent.
Average prices for all gasoline types rose only about 2 cents a gallon between March 10 and April 14, an American Automobile Association spokesman said.
Washington-area prices in March were 12.3 percent higher than a year earlier, an increase still lower than the national average increase of 14.7 percent.
The government figures show that goods that cost $100 in 1967 cost $238.80 last month and $231.90 in January.