Houston's Inflation Rate Increases

The Consumer Price Index is a measure of the average change in prices over time in a fixed set of goods and services.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks prices on a monthly and yearly basis.

While the Houston area saw some price declines in November and December, overall prices went up in 2011.

Labor Bureau Regional Economist Cheryl Abbott says the Consumer Price Index went up 3.1 percent in Houston over the past year.

"It's actually not that high by our historical standards. But for the last few years, inflation was really running at a much lower rate than we were historically accustomed to. And actually in 2008 prices dipped slightly over the year. So that's why right now we're all feeling the difference. We've gotten accustomed to lower rates. But again, by historical standards, three percent is nothing."

Although the rate of inflation isn't terribly high, prices have been steadily rising for the most important categories — food and energy.

Food costs rose by 4.8 percent last year. You may have already noticed that when you purchase staples like bread, milk and eggs. The average price of a gallon of milk was $3.57 in 2011. That's 32 cents higher than the average price the year before.

And energy costs went up by 7.7 percent. Abbott says most folks have already reduced their overall spending.

"What we're doing though also is simply redistributing what we have to spend. If we've got to buy gas to get to work, then we're probably going to cut back on eating out for lunch."

The recreation index was the only major category that saw declines last year: it's down 1.6 percent.

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