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UNF economist says brutal winter is affecting consumer price index here in North Florida

Posted: February 20, 2014 - 5:34pm

The rate of inflation is rising on the First Coast with a substantial increase seen in transportation costs, personal computers and in some food categories, a University of Florida Economist said Thursday.

The consumer price index for North Florida went from 115.33 in December to 115.04 in January. And there were upticks in the cost of public transportation, which increased by 7.4 percent, mostly due to airfares, said UNF economist Paul Mason.

The airfares saw the most significant uptick in consumer prices for the month.

“That’s a pretty big jump particularly when you recognize that’s for January,” Mason said Thursday. “You expect to see that around the holidays. But for January, that’s kind of surprising.”

But given the brutal weather and a series of winter storms slamming the United States this winter, Mason said it makes sense the airfares were affected.

“The airlines, they’ve had a rough season with all the cancellations and all the rerouting and other things. So, a lot of people have been forced to change their flights and their schedule. They may perceive that as an increase in demand because they’ve cancelled so many flights and they’re trying to take advantage of it,” Mason said.

Medical care commodities jumped 6.3 percent, the cost of fuel oils increased 6.2 percent and personal computers and equipment increased by 6.1 percent in price. To a lesser extent, food prices also increased at a nominal rate.

Mason’s figures come from analyzing trends in Duval, St. Johns, Nassau, Clay and Baker counties.

While there were several economic indicators that showed an increase in costs, there were some key indicators that fell in January. The most significant was the cost of single-family homes, which dropped from about $200,000 in December to about $185,000 in January. That figure, which is a major economic indicator, caused the consumer price index to drop, Mason said.

The housing figure bucked the trend of recent months of increasing home values. But Mason said the drop from December to January may be a foible in the big picture of the local economy.

“It will be significant if it lasts and continues that way,” Mason said. “The fact that it dropped by that amount in one month may not signify anything if it picks back up in February.”

Drew Dixon: (904) 359-4098

 
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