Cost of Living in Cedar City, St. George, Remains at Historic Lows

Published: July 29, 2004 | Author: Dr. Alan Hamlin, Professor of Management | Category: Academics

The cost of living in Southern Utah stayed at levels comparable to 1989 for the past three months, according to the most recent data gathered by Dr. Alan Hamlin, Professor of Business at Southern Utah University.

The quarterly study, funded jointly by Dixie Regional Medical Center and Valley View Medical Center, WECCO, the Washington County Economic Development Council, and the Iron County Economic Development Office, yields data which is included in the Cost of Living Index, published by the American Chamber of Commerce Researcher's Association (ACCRA).

Southern Utah Costs:

When Hamlin began the study in 1989, the overall cost of living in St. George was 92.5% of the national average. Cedar City was 89.1%. Today, 15 years later, the costs are 92.4% for St. George, and 90.5% for Cedar City, virtually the same for both. This means that, in spite of rapid growth, high prices of oil, and volatile healthcare costs, the two cities have kept their overall costs in check compared to those around the nation. There are six categories which make up the composite score- food prices, housing, utilities, transportation, healthcare and miscellaneous items.

Hamlin has just completed collecting data for the July ACCRA report. The average price of a new 2,400 square foot home in St. George was $229,250, while the same home in Cedar City was $197,400. Rent for a two-bedroom apartment averaged $567 in St. George, $502 in Cedar City.

In St. George, grocery costs are currently 106.8% of the national average. While this is high, it is significantly less than the 112.1% a year ago. Hamlin believes that this is due to competition from discount stores which carry food products. St. George housing costs, including the cost of new homes and apartment rent, have risen during the past year, but no faster than the rest of the country. Overall housing costs remain an attractive 77.8% of the national average. Utility costs are 81.6%, compared to 88.7% last year. Transportation prices, at 97.2%, have increased due to gasoline price hikes, but remain at national average levels. St. George healthcare costs decreased relative to national norms, from 92.5% to 90.2%. Lastly, miscellaneous items (a market basket of goods ranging from hamburgers to tennis balls) rose slightly from 97.8% to 101.5%.

For Cedar City, the cost of living remains very attractive. Food costs are still high, at 111.1%, while last year they were 110.8%. However, this is offset by housing costs at 70.5%, utilities at 84.6%, transportation at 93.4%, and healthcare at 87.5%. Miscellaneous goods were at 101.0% of the national average.

By comparison, the cost of living in Salt Lake City is 98.0%, Denver is 105.5%, Las Vegas is 109.3% and Los Angeles is 149.9%. A person moving from St. George to Los Angeles would have to make 62% more income, after taxes, to retain the same standard of living they had in Southern Utah.

Southern Utah Local Inflation Rates:

Collecting local price data allows a quick analysis of cost increases over time. Generally, the local inflation rates continue to mirror national levels, which is why the relative standing of the two cities remains constant over time. Even though actual costs are rising, they have been doing so at the same rate of speed as the rest of the country. The most recent prices collected by Hamlin, in the first week of July, showed overall increases of 6.85% over the past 12 months in St. George. Cedar City inflation rates were 7.68% for the same period. This is above the 3% national average for the past few years, but is mostly due to accelerating real estate prices in both cities. This phenomenon is happening nationwide, and will probably result in a higher level of inflation in other cities. Thus, the relative position of Southern Utah should remain stable.


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