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The cost of consumer goods and services as measured by the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) rose 1.3 percent nationwide from August ’19 to August ’20, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Core inflation (all items less the volatile food and energy categories) increased 1.7 percent since August ’19.
The cost of energy decreased 9.0 percent from the previous August, largely due to a 16.8 percent decline in motor fuel prices. Electricity and natural gas costs also decreased 0.1 percent and 0.5 percent, respectively. The shelter index grew 2.3 percent from August of last year. In that same period of time, food prices overall increased 4.1 percent, with grocery prices rising 4.6 percent. The cost of dining out increased a lesser amount, at 3.5 percent.
Consumer prices in the Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land metro area dropped 0.2 percent from August ’19 to August ’20, the third consecutive 12-month decrease. Core inflation, all items less food and energy, rose 0.3 percent. The shelter index went up 0.7 percent.
Food prices rose 2.6 percent during the previous 12 months. The cost of dining out grew 3.6 percent and grocery prices went up 1.5 percent.
In the 12 months ending August ’20, the energy index fell 11.5 percent, due to a 25.4 percent decline in motor fuel. Energy price declines have improved over the past few months as coronavirus-induced restrictions eased. Electricity prices rose 6.1 percent, while natural gas rose 0.2 percent.
The COVID-19 pandemic contributed to higher prices for medical care (4.3 percent) as well as price declines in educational items, such as tuition, school fees and childcare (-1.7 percent).
 CPI data in this commentary are not seasonally adjusted.
 Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery and Waller Counties.
Elizabeth Balderrama, PCED
Patrick Jankowski, CERP
Senior Vice President, Research
Houston's energy index fell 11.5 percent since last August