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Tue. 9:16 a.m.: Rising energy costs lift US consumer prices 0.2 percent in December

In this Sept. 17, 2019, file photo, a car fills up at a gas pump in Orlando, Fla. Rising energy costs drove U.S. consumer prices higher in December 2019, and American workers’ earnings couldn’t keep up. The Labor Department said this morning that its consumer price index rose 0.2 percent last month, lifted by a 2.8 percent increase in gasoline prices. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Rising energy costs drove U.S. consumer prices higher in December, and American workers’ earnings couldn’t keep up.

The Labor Department said this morning that its consumer price index rose 0.2 percent last month, lifted by a 2.8 percent increase in gasoline prices. Over the past year, consumer inflation is up 2.3 percent. Excluding volatile food and energy prices, so-called core consumer inflation rose just 0.1 percent in December and 2.3 percent over the past year.

Inflation is running close to the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent annual target. The Fed cut short-term interest rates three times last year, partly to protect a record-breaking U.S. economic expansion from the effects of President Donald Trump’s trade war with China.

The Labor Department also reported that workers’ hourly earnings, adjusted for inflation, fell 0.1 percent in December after rising 0.1 percent in November. Over the past year, workers’ hourly earnings rose 0.6 percent. But they worked fewer hours, so inflation-adjusted weekly earnings showed “essentially no change” over the past year, the department said.

Over the past year, gasoline prices are up 7.9 percent and the cost of shelter has risen 3.2 percent. Used-car prices are down 0.7 percent, and clothing prices have fallen 1.2 percent.

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