WASHINGTON — Retail prices for apparel fell a seasonally adjusted 0.2 percent in April, while increasing 0.9 percent compared with a year earlier, the Labor Department said Friday in its Consumer Price Index.

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“There should be no surprise that while we’re in the middle of a consumer-driven recession, apparel retailers are going to have to slash prices to gain margins and market share,” said Richard Yamarone, director of economic research at Argus Research Corp. “But I think you’ll see some of these pressures recede as we enter the summer months.”

Women’s apparel prices increased 1 percent in April and 1.2 percent in 12-month comparisons. Men’s apparel prices declined 1.7 percent month-to-month, but advanced 0.7 percent compared with April 2008.

Easter probably helped keep women’s apparel prices up, accounting for the diverging trends in women’s and men’s apparel prices, Yamarone said.

Prices for all goods and services remained flat in April and declined 0.7 percent year-over-year. Core inflation, which excludes the volatile food and energy sectors, rose 0.3 percent in April and 1.9 percent year-to-year.

“The CPI is in negative territory, but the economy is not in a deflationary spiral,” said Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight.

Retail prices for women’s outerwear advanced 6 percent in April and 8 percent in 12-month comparisons. Women’s dresses declined 0.6 percent month-to-month and 0.8 percent year-to-year. Prices for women’s suits and separates increased 2 percent in April and 0.6 percent from a year earlier. In the broad underwear, nightwear, sportswear and accessories category, prices declined 2.3 percent in April, but rose 1 percent in 12-month comparisons. Girls’ apparel prices declined 3.9 percent in April and 2.6 percent year-on-year.

Retail prices for men’s suits, sports coats and outerwear prices declined 1.2 percent in April and tumbled 5.9 percent from a year earlier. The men’s furnishings and shirts and sweaters categories both dropped 2.9 percent last month, but in yearly comparisons they rose 4.2 percent and declined 0.2 percent, respectively. Pants and shorts prices were flat in April and rose 3.5 percent year-over-year. Boys’ apparel prices declined 1.6 percent month-to-month and 0.4 percent year-to-year.