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US Apparel Prices Fall While Overall CPI Still Rises

U.S. retail apparel prices fell a seasonally adjusted 0.3 percent in September compared to August, even as the overall Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose 0.4 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported Thursday.

Women’s apparel prices declined 0.4 percent last month, with decreases of 1.9 percent in outerwear, 0.7 percent in suits and separates, and 0.5 percent in dresses partially offset by a 0.8 percent hike in the underwear, nightwear, swimwear and accessories group.

Men’s wear prices were down 1.1 percent for the month, led by a 3.3 percent drop in suits, sport coats and outerwear, along with a 2.3 percent decline in pants and shorts and a 0.4 percent dip in shirts and sweaters. Bucking the trend was a 1 percent rise in the cost of underwear, nightwear, swimwear and accessories.

Girls’ apparel prices increased 1.8 percent in September, while boys’ clothing prices fell 4.6 percent and infants’ and toddlers’ prices were down 0.8 percent.

Retail footwear prices dipped 0.5 percent last month. An increase of 0.8 percent in men’s was counterbalanced by declines of 0.9 percent in boys’ and girls’ footwear and a 0.8 percent falloff in the cost of women’s shoes.

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In the home goods sectors, BLS reported that prices for household furnishings and supplies rose 0.6 percent in September and had increased 9.9 percent over the 12 months. Within that category, prices for furniture and bedding inched down 0.1 percent for the month, but were up 10.1 percent from September 2021.

Helping to keep apparel price at bay were lower raw material costs. U.S. spot cotton prices averaged 85.59 cents per pound for the week ended Oct. 6, according to the U.D. Department of Agriculture. That was down from 89.25 cents the prior week and $1.05 a year earlier.

BLS’s Producer Price Index for U.S.-made synthetic fibers was up 0.9 percent for the month and 5.8 percent from September 2021. Prices for processed yarns and threads fell 0.4 percent last month, but were still up 26.9 percent for the year, and prices for finished fabrics were flat month to month and up 12.3 percent year to year.

Over the past 12 months, CPI, a key gauge for inflation, increased an unadjusted 8.2 percent compared to an 8.3 percent increase for the period through August. Increases in the shelter, food and medical care indexes were the largest of many contributors to the gain, partly offset by a 4.9 percent decline in the gasoline index.

“Today’s report shows some progress in the fight against higher prices, even as we have more work to do,” President Biden said. “Inflation over the last three months has averaged 2 percent, at an annualized rate. That’s down from 11 percent in the prior quarter. But even with this progress, prices are still too high. Fighting the global inflation that is affecting countries around the world and working families here at home is my top priority.”

Biden said the United States is in a stronger position than any major economy to take on this challenge, and his policies directly tackle price pressures such as health care shown in the CPI report.

“The Inflation Reduction Act locks in lower health care premiums for 13 million people, lowers seniors’ prescription drug prices and caps their out of pocket expenses for prescription drugs at the pharmacy at $2,000 per year,” he added. “The Inflation Reduction Act will also lower families’ energy costs in the months ahead.”

BLS revealed that the energy index, important for business operation and logistics, fell 2.1 percent over the month as the gasoline index declined, but the natural gas and electricity indexes increased.

The core index, excluding food and energy, rose 0.6 percent in September, as it did in August. The indexes for shelter, medical care, motor vehicle insurance, new vehicles, household furnishings and operations, and education were among those that increased over the month. There were some indexes that declined in September, including those for used cars and trucks, apparel and communication.

The core index rose 6.6 percent over the past 12 months, the largest 12-month increase in that index since August 1982. The energy index increased 19.8 percent for the period, a smaller rise than the 23.8 percent increase for the period ending August.

For the year through September, the energy index rose 19.8 percent, with the gasoline index up 18.2 percent over the span and the fuel oil index elevated 58.1 percent. The index for electricity rose 15.5 percent over the last 12 months and the index for natural gas increased 33.1 percent over the same period.