Lower gasoline prices continued to be the largest downward contributor to the CPI in the 12 months to March, posting a 19.2 percent decline. However, the decline in March was smaller than the 21.8 percent year-over-year decrease observed in February.
Excluding gasoline, the CPI increased 2.2 percent on a year-over-year basis in March, matching the rise the previous month.
Prices rose in seven of the eight major components in the 12 months to March, led by higher prices for food, followed by increases in the household operations, furnishings and equipment index and the shelter index. The transportation index, which includes gasoline, posted its fifth consecutive year-over-year decline.
Consumers paid 3.8 percent more for food in March compared with the same month a year earlier. Prices for food purchased from stores were up 4.2 percent on a year-over-year basis, led by an 11.8 percent increase in meat prices. Higher prices for fresh vegetables (+6.4 percent) and fresh fruit (+2.1 percent) also contributed to the gain. Prices for food purchased from restaurants rose 2.8 percent year over year in March.
Shelter costs rose 1.4 percent year over year in March, led by the homeowners' home and mortgage insurance index, which was up 9.1 percent. Consumers also paid more for rent (+1.4 percent), property taxes (+2.2 percent) and electricity (+3.0 percent). In contrast, fuel oil prices were 15.2 percent lower in March compared with the same month the previous year.
Transportation costs decreased 3.9 percent in the 12 months to March, after falling 5.0 percent in February. Lower gasoline prices were the largest downward contributor in both months. Conversely, prices for the purchase of passenger vehicles rose 1.8 percent year over year in March, following a 1.0 percent decline the previous month.
On a non-seasonally adjusted monthly basis, the gasoline price index rose 6.3 percent in March, following a 9.4 percent gain the previous month.
On a seasonally adjusted monthly basis, the CPI increased 0.7 percent in March.