Consumer prices in the Washington area increased 1.3 percent in December and January, bringing the pace of inflation for the past 12 months to 5.2 percent compared with 3.9 percent nationally, the Labor Department reported yesterday.

The 1.3 percent increase in the consumer price index exceeded the 1 percent increase in October and November and the 0.1 percent rise in August and September, Labor said. Higher housing and food costs were partly offset by lower price increases for apparel.

The index for housing costs increased 2.7 percent in the past two months. Within that category, the costs for owning a home increased 3.8 percent, while the costs for renters increased 3 percent. The indices for household equipment and appliances, electricity and fuel oil increased, while costs declined for textile furnishings for houses and natural gas.

Food costs rose 1.9 percent, following 0.9 percent increases in October and November. Prices for foods bought at grocery stores increased 2.7 percent, largely because of higher fresh vegetable, beef, fish and seafood costs, the Labor Department said. Prices were also higher for processed fruits and vegetables, pork and most dairy products. Costs declined for carbonated drinks, bakery products and fats and oils.

Sharp seasonal markdowns at local apparel shops resulted in an 8.6 percent decline in prices of all types of clothing and footwear, but particularly women's apparel and shoes, the Labor Department said.