WASHINGTON — The consumer price index increased 0.5% in March on a seasonally adjusted basis, mostly because of rising gasoline and food prices, the Labor Department reported Friday.

Core consumer prices, which exclude food and energy, increased 0.1% for the month, following a 0.2% gain in each of February and January.

Economists were on target with their projection for consumer prices but were slightly high for core consumer prices, which saw a 0.2% gain, according to Thomson Reuters.

Gasoline prices, up 5.6% after a 4.7% increase in February, and food prices, up 0.8% after rising 0.6% in February, together accounted for almost three quarters of the March gain in consumer prices, the Labor Department said.

Real average hourly earnings declined by 0.6% in March.

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