The cost of living in Colorado Springs rose to a 17½-year high in the first quarter and now is just 0.1 percentage points below the national average, according to a nationwide survey.
Local costs were 99.9% of the national average in the January-to-March quarter, the highest since the third quarter of 2001, according to a quarterly survey by the Council for Community and Economic Research. The Springs’ cost of living has risen sharply in the past three years as the local economy has gained strength — the city’s costs were 92.6% of the national average during the first quarter of 2016.
Tatiana Bailey, director of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Economic Forum, said she wasn’t surprised by the increase and remains concerned that local wages aren’t keeping up with costs.
“While wages have improved a bit in recent quarters, the average wage remains about 14% below the national average,” Bailey said. “When you see the cost of living is essentially the same as the national average and yet wages are lagging, that is a concern. It makes it harder to retain workers and that is a problem.”
Four of the six components that make up the council’s cost of living index — groceries, utilities, health care and miscellaneous goods and services — saw increases. Housing costs declined slightly, while transportation costs fell sharply to 96.1% from 106.4% a year ago.
It is important to note that the council’s index doesn’t measure inflation. It compares the prices for 57 goods and services used or purchased by households where middle managers live in 257 metro areas. It’s designed to help managers compare living costs when moving to another city.
Colorado Springs and Pueblo remain the only two Colorado metro areas in the survey still below the national average. Costs in Pueblo fell to 93.7% of the national average from 94.3% a year earlier. Costs in Denver also fell, but remained well above the average at 111%, while costs in Grand Junction jumped to 100.3% from 94.1% a year ago. Fort Collins and Greeley are not included in the survey.
Costs in Pueblo had ranked among the 15 lowest in the nation at 85.6% of the national average as recently as three years ago, but have escalated since then. The nation’s lowest cost cities are now Harlingen and McAllen, Texas, at 74.7% and 75.9% of the national average, respectively, while New York and San Francisco are the highest-cost areas, both more than double the national average.
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