Retail apparel prices rose a seasonally adjusted 0.4 percent in April compared with March, the second consecutive monthly gain, and were up 5.1 percent from a year earlier, the Labor Department’s Consumer Price Index showed Tuesday.

Women’s apparel prices increased 1.2 percent for the month and were up 6 percent for the year. Men’s apparel prices also rose in April, with a 0.4 percent monthly gain and a 5.6 percent year-to-year hike.
Prices for girls’ apparel were down 0.1 percent last month but were up 7.1 percent over the 12 months, while boys’ apparel prices gained 2.6 percent on a monthly basis, and jumped 11.3 percent for the year.

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The overall CPI was unchanged for the month and increased 2.3 percent year-to-year. The core index, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, increased 0.2 percent for the month and was up 2.3 percent from April 2011.

Chris G. Christopher Jr., senior principal economist at IHS Global Insight, said, “The fall in [gas] pump and utility prices is offering considerable relief to consumers. However, rising food prices are especially problematic to households that are on tight budgets.”

Christopher said even though gasoline expenditures are less than 5 percent of disposable income, consumer psychology is driven more by prices at the pump. He noted that airline fares, used and new vehicles, clothing, shelter and medical care contributed to keeping the core index up. Christopher said consumers could see an easing of apparel prices if energy prices continue to fall and commodity prices, such as cotton, continue to show stability.

In the women’s category, dress prices declined 4.3 percent for the month but were still 10.3 percent higher than April 2011. Outerwear prices increased 4.2 percent for the month and 8.3 percent for the year, while suits and separates prices rose 3 percent month-to-month and 4 percent year-to-year, and the broad underwear, nightwear, sportswear and accessories group increased 1.2 percent last month and 5.9 percent from a year earlier.

In the men’s category, pants and shorts prices dropped 0.1 percent last month but were up 6.5 percent year-to-year, while suits, sport coats and outerwear declined 1.3 percent month-to-month but increased 2.5 percent from a year earlier. Shirt and sweater prices rose 2.4 percent for the month and 7.6 percent for the year, while furnishings were up 0.3 percent from a month earlier and 5.5 percent from April 2011.

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