Washington area consumer prices rose 1.5 percent during the last two months, primarily because of higher costs for housing, apparel and food, the Labor Department said yesterday.
The February-March increase follows a consumer price decline of 0.2 percent in December and January, and an increase of 0.7 percent in October and November.
The index is calculated every other month.
The local increase compares with a national increase of 0.9 percent, partly reflecting higher costs locally for fruits, vegetables and furnishings.
For the 12-month period ending in March, the local consumer price index rose 4.6 percent.
The Washington-area consumer price index now stands at 319.2, which means that an item that cost $10 in 1967 now costs $31.92.
Apparel and upkeep costs rose 5.4 percent, as many items were marked up from previous sale prices and as retailers began introducing some spring wear at higher prices, the department's Bureau of Labor Statistics said.
Seasonal reductions of clothing and footwear prices had caused these prices to decline 3.5 percent in December and January.
Housing costs rose 1.6 percent in February and March, largely because of "sharp" price increases in furniture and bedding, and also reflected increases from sale prices to normal prices, the BLS said.
Homeowners' costs increased 0.7 percent, while renters' costs declined 0.3 percent.
Prices rose for electricity, household equipment and housekeeping services, while prices declined for natural gas and housekeeping supplies, the bureau said.
Housing costs had been unchanged on average in December and January.
Food and beverage prices rose 1.4 percent, partly reflecting a 1.9 percent increase in grocery store foods.
The bureau reported higher prices for fruits and vegetables, soft drinks, cereal products and pork. Prices declined slightly, however, for dairy products and alcoholic beverages.
The cost of oranges increased 25.6 percent locally, reflecting local reliance on troubled Florida citrus growers.
The Labor Department's index of local medical care prices rose 2.1 percent, primarily because of a sharp increase in charges for professional services, the bureau said. The index had declined 0.3 percent in the previous two-month period.
The cost of public transportation declined 0.7 percent, while the cost of private transportation increased 0.5 percent. Gasoline prices rose moderately over the last two months, with a sharp increase in March more than offsetting a decline in February, the bureau reported.
Despite this increase, gasoline prices were 12.3 percent lower than their peak level in March 1981, the bureau said.
Entertainment costs declined 0.4 percent.