edged higher as food costs rose

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A customer browses products at a Walmart store in Burbank, California

Patrick T. Fallon | Bloomberg | Getty Images

U.S. consumer prices increased slightly last month, driven higher by more expensive food.

The Labor Department said Wednesday that the consumer price index ticked up 0.1% last month, matching its January increase. Prices rose 2.3% compared with a year earlier. Excluding the volatile food and energy categories, prices increased 0.2% in February and 2.4% compared with a year earlier.

Inflation has been mild since the Great Recession ended more than a decade ago, and Wednesday’s figures indicate that hasn’t changed. Even though unemployment is at a half-century low, wages aren’t yet increasing quickly enough to force employers to boost prices to cover higher labour costs.

The price of clothing, used cars, and medical care rose last month, while the cost of airline fares and gas dropped.

Services, rather than goods, continue to be the main drivers of price gains. Medical care costs have increased 5.3% in the past year, while rents rose 3.3%.

Prices for new cars, meanwhile, have risen just 0.4% in the past year, while clothing costs have fallen 0.9%.

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