U.S. retail apparel prices fell a seasonally 0.5 percent last month, as a decline in women’s and girls’ outweighed flat prices in men’s and a slight uptick in boys’ prices, the Labor Department reported Thursday in its Consumer Price Index.
Women’s retail apparel prices were down 0.8 percent in May, while prices for girls’ clothing decreased 0.4 percent. Boys’ apparel prices rose 0.2 percent for the month.
In the women’s category, dresses fell 2.9 percent month-to-month, as the nightwear, sportswear and accessories group declined 1.2 percent and suits and separates were off 0.5 percent. Outerwear prices bucked the trend with a 1.4 percent increase.
In men’s, decreases of 1.2 percent in shirts and sweaters and 0.5 percent in furnishings were offset by increases in 2.2 percent in the suits, sport coats and outerwear group and 0.4 percent in pants and shorts.
In the overall economy, the CPI rose 0.4 percent, while the core index, which excludes the volatile food and energy sectors, increased 0.1 percent, the weakest gain in core prices since December 2014, noted Chris G. Christopher Jr., director of consumer economics at IHS Global Insight.
“The increase in the [overall] CPI was the largest since early 2013, however it remains mostly a gasoline story,” Christopher said. “Recently, pump prices have been increasing, while food-at-home prices have been easier to swallow.”
He noted that weekly pump prices for the week ended June 15 were 76 cents a gallon higher than in early February, but still about 85 cents lower than a year earlier.
“Food-at-home prices have been coming down in recent months, assisting many low-income households who live paycheck to paycheck to have a little extra cushion in their budgets,” Christopher added. “Core inflation is still well below where the Fed would like it to be — namely 2 percent on a year-over-year basis. While the Fed will pay attention to these numbers, it will be paying closer attention to the labor market and wage inflation.”