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Cold US Winter Pushes Energy Costs Higher

  • VOA News

Commuters wait for their bus in blowing snow, Feb. 5, 2014, in Chicago, Illinois.
Americans paid higher energy costs last month as they coped with an unusually cold winter in much of the United States.

The government's Labor Department says consumer prices edged up just one-tenth of a percentage point in January, but the cost of electricity and fuels to heat homes surged.

The monthly report said electricity prices rose 1.8 percent last month, the biggest increase in nearly four years. Natural gas prices jumped 3.6 percent and heating fuel by 3.7 percent. But for the 12 months ending in January, consumer prices advanced only 1.6 percent.

In a separate report, the Labor Department said the number of unemployed workers making first-time claims for jobless benefits dropped by 3,000 to 336,000 last week, an indication that employers are cutting few jobs.

But hiring has been sluggish, with only 188,000 jobs during the past two months combined, even as the jobless rate dropped to 6.6 percent, a five-year low.

Some information for this report comes from AP and Reuters.