News Column

Gas Prices Hit SoCal Consumers

Oct. 17, 2012

Mary Ann Milbourn

Los Angeles

A second month of high gasoline prices hit Southern California consumers in the pocketbook with the cost of living rising 0.4 percent in September, only slightly less than the 0.6 percent in August, the government reported Tuesday.

Over the last year, the Consumer Price Index for the Orange County-Los Angeles-Riverside area rose 2.2 percent, moderate by historic standards but up from the 1.5 percent annual rate in April.

Consumers nationwide got hit a little harder in September with a 0.6 percent increase in prices over August, but for the year, the U.S. CPI was up 2 percent.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics blamed gasoline prices, which jumped 7 percent nationwide in September on top of a 9 percent spike in August. Californians have been particularly hard hit because of gas supply interruptions after two refineries went down.

After hitting a record high last week, local gas prices slowly are declining.

In Orange County, the average cost of a gallon of regular unleaded gas was $4.559 Tuesday, down from the peak of $4.49 Oct. 8, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report. Last year, the price was $3.85.

Motorists filling up at a Union 76 station in Brea Monday, where the price of regular was $4.49 a gallon, said they were feeling the pain.

Mina Gutierrez drives her pickup truck daily from her home in West Covina to her job in Santa Ana. She said it costs her $120 to fill the tank, although at these prices, she only buys half a tank.

"It's pretty hard," she said. "We haven't been going out a lot or anything."

Consumers were doing a little better at the grocery store. Local food and beverage prices edged up 0.1 percent in September, the same as August, and have increased 1.2 percent in the last 12 months. This time last year, food and beverage prices were rising at a 4.7 percent annual pace.

Here's how other items in the local CPI have fared over the last year:

-- Apparel: 1.3 percent

-- Education and communications: 2.8 percent

-- Housing: 2.1 percent

-- Household fuels and utilities: 2.6 percent

-- Medical care: 4.3 percent

-- Recreation: 0.1 percent

Source: (c)2012 The Orange County Register (Santa Ana, Calif.). Distributed by MCT Information Services

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