WASHINGTON —Men’s apparel prices continued to show inflationary pressure even as the prices for all goods and services moderated and remained unchanged in February.
Men’s apparel prices rose a seasonally adjusted 1.8 percent in February, following a 0.2 increase in January, according to the Labor Department’s Consumer Price Index released Friday.
Against a year ago, men’s apparel prices rose 0.1 percent. Boys’ apparel prices, on the other hand, mirrored the overall softening of prices last month, declining 1.9 percent in February. However, compared with a year ago, boys’ retail prices shot up 6.9 percent.
“Men’s fall and winter apparel items were not as heavily discounted,” said Malinda Harrell, an economist with the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Harrell said men’s retail prices usually decline by 13 percent due to discounting in February but this year, the average discount on fall and winter merchandise was 6 percent.
Within the men’s category, suits, sport coats and outerwear prices rose 1.8 percent in February and were 0.4 percent ahead of a year earlier, furnishings prices also rose 1.8 percent last month but were down 0.8 percent compared with a year ago. Shirts and sweaters prices increased 3.7 percent during February and were flat against a year ago, as pants and shorts prices fell 0.5 percent last month but were up 0.9 percent compared with a year ago.
Apparel prices on the whole, including the women’s and girls’ sector, fell 0.3 percent in February and were down 1 percent against a year earlier.
Harrell said the apparel index is more heavily weighted by women’s prices, which fell 1.8 percent in February.
In the overall economy, falling prices in many sectors, including energy and food sectors, combined to keep prices for all goods and services unchanged in February, after a 0.4 percent rise in January and December.
The so-called core prices, which exclude volatile energy and food prices, were also flat last month, after a 0.3 percent increase in January, which followed nine straight months of 0.2 increases.
Some economists warned that the moderation in retail prices, which are considered the truest barometer of inflation, is temporary.
“The pretty result for February top-line consumer prices will turn ugly in March, as gasoline prices rise into record-setting territory,” said Kenneth Beauchemin, a U.S. economist with Global Insight in an analysis. “And food prices are quite likely to continue their ascent. Acting in concert, these price hikes will deliver additional economic pain in the coming months.”
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