Business

Consumer prices nearly flat in Sept.

WASHINGTON — US consumer prices increased only slightly in September, as higher energy costs offset flat food prices. The figures are the latest evidence that slow economic growth is keeping inflation tame.

The consumer price index rose a seasonally adjusted 0.2 percent in September, the Labor Department said Wednesday. That’s up from 0.1 percent in August. Higher gas, electricity, and other energy costs rose 0.8 percent, making up about half the overall increase.

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In the past year, consumer prices have increased just 1.2 percent, down from a 1.5 percent annual gain in August. That’s the smallest 12-month gain since April, and it’s below the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent inflation target.

Excluding volatile food and energy costs, core prices rose just 0.1 percent and are up 1.7 percent in the past 12 months.

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High unemployment and meager wage increases have made it difficult for Americans to pay more for most goods. That has also made it hard for retailers to charge more.

Paul Dales, an economist at Capital Economics, says price gains have picked up in the past few months, a sign ‘‘the Fed needn’t worry too much about low inflation.’’

Prices for clothing and hotels fell, while airline fares, new car prices, and rents rose. Fruit and vegetable prices dropped, offsetting increases in meat, breads, and dairy products.

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The consumer price figures were originally scheduled to be released Oct. 16. But they were delayed by the 16-day partial government shutdown.

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