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New Report Says US Inflation Pressures Appear to be Easing

The U.S. Labor Department says overall prices paid by consumers rose only slightly in April. Wednesday's report shows energy costs appear to be stabilizing after posting sharp gains earlier this year. Although food prices continue to rise, some economists say the report should ease fears of runaway inflation. However, for some lower income Americans, it may already be too late. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.

Inflation pressures appear to be easing a bit in the U.S., despite the largest increase in food prices in 18 years. A (U.S.) Labor Department report shows the consumer price index, a measure of the average price changes for goods and services, rose only two-tenths of a percent in April. In March, it rose three tenths of a percent.

But the numbers mean little to some Americans. Rising prices for basic items have already had a devastating impact on some families.

Single mother, Julie Tkachuck, says after paying for gas and groceries, she had no money left to pay for electricity.

"There's something wrong with this picture," she says. "I work hard. I come home; I take care of my kids. Why am I in this situation."

Despite the hardship for some, the lower than expected price index helped ease financial market concerns, pushing Wall Street slightly higher on Wednesday.

Taking out volatile food and energy costs, the Labor Department says "core" CPI rose by just one-tenth of one percent last month.

Consumer assistance groups say the irony is that the number of people unable to pay their energy bills is now the highest it has been in 16 years.

Mark Wolfe is executive director of the National Energy Assistance Directors Association.

"Energy is becoming unaffordable to millions of low-income families," he says. "We don't have a good solution in place to help them."

Although gasoline prices surged higher last month, the price index reflected a two percent drop after seasonal adjustments are factored in. That may be little comfort to motorists now paying record prices at the pump.