Washington-area prices rose by only 0.2 percent during April and May, kept relatively low by significant declines in the prices of fruits and vegetables and women's and girls' clothing, according to data released yesterday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
That compares with a national increase in the consumer price index of 0.8 percent during the same two months.
During February and March, Washington-area prices rose by 1.5 percent, attributed to higher housing, apparel and food costs. Prices paid by area consumers in May were 4.6 percent higher than a year earlier. Goods and services that cost $100 in 1967 now cost $323.
The largest price increases were recorded for footwear (up 3.8 percent), alcoholic beverages (up 2.8 percent) and energy (up 2.6 percent). The biggest drops were in the prices of fruits and vegetables (down 4.2 percent), women's and girls' apparel (down 5.3 percent) and renters' housing costs (other than rent), which were off 8.2 percent.
Seasonal factors accounted for the change in food prices, which are not adjusted. Besides fruits and vegetables, items showing a downward blip included pork, cereals, most dairy products and beef. Food consumed away from home went up 1.6 percent.
The cost of clothing and its upkeep declined by 0.9 percent. According to Jesse Thomas of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, clothing costs decreased as a result of sales on lines of clothing introduced earlier in the season.
Household furnishings and operations, including storage and repairs, slipped 2.6 percent, primarily as a result of lower furniture prices.
These reductions were offset by increases in energy, particularly the continued rise in the price of gasoline, and in the cost of alcoholic beverages and footwear. Household electricity charges rose, while natural gas and oil prices dropped.
The prices of beer, wine and spirits edged up by just 0.5 percent nationally. Robert Ternes of the labor bureau said the upward move in alcoholic beverage prices in the Washington area was probably caused by the end of whiskey promotions in May. However, Ternes admitted that the small sampling in the Washington area could account for the national and local discrepancy in the price increases. Locally, there also was some increase in prices of drinks served at bars, taverns and clubs.
The sharp increase in footwear prices, particularly for women's shoes, in this region might also be a statistical aberration resulting from a small sample, said the labor bureau's Dick Detweiker. Around the country, the price of footwear remained unchanged over the past two months. Ken Crerar, manager of the legislative office of Footwear Industries of America, said the rise could reflect the return to regular prices. Earlier in the year, retailers held sales to reduce inventory build-up of more than 100 million pairs.
There also were higher fares for airline and intercity bus travel. These were offset by declines in automobile prices and financing charges. Medical care continued to increase by 0.8 percent.