Inflation rises modestly in Boston area

Consumer prices in Greater Boston rose 1.7 percent over the past year, slightly faster than the 1.5 percent increase nationally, the US Labor Department reported Tuesday.

Boston consumers saw the biggest increase in housing costs, driven partly by a jump in utility prices. Overall utilities climbed 11 percent in March from a year earlier; natural gas jumped nearly 20 percent.

Food prices climbed 1.2 percent, but prices for clothes fell. Gasoline prices also fell in Boston, declining about 4 percent from a year ago. Motorists here paid an average of $3.57 a gallon in March.