By  on September 17, 2008

WASHINGTON — Men’s apparel prices rose in August, but in yearly comparisons they are rising at a slower rate than general consumer prices.

Retail prices for men’s apparel increased a seasonally adjusted 0.9 percent in both August and compared to a year ago, the U.S Labor Department said Tuesday in its Consumer Price Index.

The August increase follows a 0.5 percent decline in July and a 1 percent decline in June.

Monthly apparel prices are very volatile, said Kenneth Beauchemin, because the seasonal factors change frequently.

“If you look at the year-over-year change, which is the better thing to do, apparel prices have risen a lot slower than the consumer price index as a whole. Which is another way of saying apparel prices are becoming relatively cheaper over the last year,” Beauchemin said.

Prices have primarily been held down by productivity gains that the industry has achieved to help offset rising input prices in areas such as synthetic fabrics which are made from oil-based substances, he said.

The so-called core prices, which exclude food and fuel, increased 0.2 percent in August and 2.5 percent compared to a year ago.

Within the men’s category suits, sport coats and outerwear showed a price decline of 1.9 percent in August and 0.4 percent compared to a year ago. Furnishings dropped 0.7 percent and increased 1.1 percent from last year. Shirts and sweaters increased 1.3 percent in August, but declined 0.3 percent from last year. Pants and shorts increased 4 percent in August and 3.6 percent from a year ago. Boys’ apparel dropped 0.7 percent for the month and rose 1.2 percent from the previous year.

The relatively small increase in core prices suggested that, “short-lived inflation concerns may be ending and are certainly far less important than concerns for jobs and economic growth,” said Charles McMillion, president and chief economist, MBG Information Services.

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