WASHINGTON – The consumer price index fell 0.3% in May on a seasonally adjusted basis, after remaining unchanged from March to April, the Labor Department reported Thursday.

Core consumer prices, which exclude food and energy, were up 0.2% for the month, after rising by the same percentage in April.

The 0.3% drop in consumer prices was larger than the median 0.2% decrease projected by economists polled by Thomson Reuters, but the economists were on target with their projection that core prices would rise 0.2%.

The decline in the CPI level for May was primarily due to a 6.8% drop in the gasoline index, which led to a sharp decrease in the energy index.

The 0.2% gain in core prices represented the third such consecutive increase, and was due to gains in the same indexes as in April: shelter, medical care, used cars and trucks, apparel, airline fares, and new vehicles.

The 12-month change in consumer prices was 1.7% in May, a percentage change that has been steadily declining since its 3.9% peak in September 2011.

The 12-month change in the index for core prices was up 2.3%, the same percentage as in April and March.

Meanwhile, real average hourly earnings rose 0.3% in May, the department said in a separate release.

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