For the past two years, the Washington-Baltimore area has had significantly higher inflation than the average for all U.S. cities, reflecting its more vigorous economy.

That changed for the 12 months ended in May, with prices rising 2.8 percent, less than the national average of 3.1 percent.

It could be a statistical blip or an early hint that the national economy, now recovering, is starting to grow more quickly than the Washington area's.

The sharpest price increase in the area, as measured by the consumer price index, was for gasoline. May prices rose 23.1 percent from a year earlier. That sounds like a lot, and it is for anyone filling up an SUV, but prices rose 30 percent nationwide during the same period.

Food prices are also up sharply, 6.6 percent in the region compared with 4.1 percent nationally. They are being driven largely by skyrocketing prices for beef, dairy and other commodities.

Some products, at least, are getting cheaper. Prices for clothing are down 5.2 percent in the past year (and up 0.7 percent nationally) and prices for household furnishings are down 1.1 percent (down 0.7 percent nationally).

And the price of alcoholic beverages in the Washington area is unchanged, but it rose 2.7 percent nationally.

-- Neil Irwin