Utah economy improving even as health care, food prices rise

This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 17th, 2012 at 9:25 am and is filed under Economic Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Utah’s economy continues to grow stronger even as some prices increase. For the second consecutive month, prices have increased in health care and food.

According to the Zions Bank Wasatch Front Consumer Price Index, the price of medical care increased 2.5 percent in June after being relatively stable this year across the Wasatch Front. Most medical services reported price hikes in June, which contributed to the largest increase in the cost of medical care since October of 2011.

Medical care costs in the U.S. have escalated 4.0 percent over the last year, much faster than the rate of inflation. The Wasatch Front has experienced a much smaller 0.5 percent increase in medical costs over the same period.

A relatively healthy population and an efficient health care system help explain stable medical care prices in Utah. The United Health Foundation ranks Utah as the seventh healthiest state, and Utah is one of only a few states to have an effective health insurance exchange.

Food costs along the Wasatch Front increased for the second month in a row–though not as sharply as health care costs. Food at home and food away prices both rose 0.6 percent. Increases in the price of meat products, including beef and poultry, continue to drive food at home costs higher.

The drought in the Midwest has severely affected crop production this summer. Smaller harvest yields mean that meat producers have to pay more for corn and grain to feed their livestock, and the increase in the price of production gets passed on to the consumer. Meat prices are likely to maintain their upward momentum as the price of corn and other inputs increase.

“It’s important to remember that even though the recovery has been tepid, the economy is in a much better place now than it was 12 to 18 months ago,” said Zions Bank President and CEO Scott Anderson. “In Utah, unemployment is lower and consumer confidence is higher than they were at this time last year. While policy makers struggle to steady international markets, Utah is positioned to lead the recovery here in the U.S. Zions Bank will continue to track the economy and deliver the most relevant information Utahns.”


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