NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Prices are still going up on food and gas, but underlying inflation remains low, the government said Thursday.
The U.S. Consumer Price Index, a key measure of inflation, increased 1.6% over the past 12 months ending in January, up from 1.5% in December, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said.
Surging gasoline and food prices helped drive the number higher, accounting for two-thirds of the increase.
Over the past 12 months, the food index has risen 1.8%, its fastest pace since 2009, and gasoline prices have soared 13.4%.
"If you're the average household, and someone wants to tell you inflation is not an issue, you're probably a little skeptical," said Paul Ballew, chief economist at Nationwide.
But economists also look at core inflation, which strips out the volatile food and energy components. That number rose just 1% during the 12-month period, showing overall price pressures still remain tame.
For that reason, this report seems a bit "schizophrenic," Ballew said.
Commodities have surged over the last several months, driving up the costs for raw materials, food and energy. But amid high unemployment, businesses are still trying to avoid passing on all those costs.
"In manufacturing, in retail and financial services, you're seeing the need to restrain passing on costs to consumers," Ballew said
January's data did show big increases in clothing and airfare, which helped drive the core inflation number slightly higher.
Clothing prices increased 1% in January. While that may not sound significant, it is a large jump from December, when apparel prices rose only 0.1%.
And airline fares increased for the fifth month in a row, rising 2.2% in January alone.
"Those are two industries that are very dependent on commodities. For apparel, just look at cotton prices, and airlines are affected by fuel," Ballew said. "This is a reminder to us that commodity prices will at some time affect other categories."
On a monthly basis, the overall CPI rose 0.4% in January, unchanged from the previous month. Economists surveyed by Briefing.com had expected a 0.3% rise in January.
Several makers of police body cameras say orders have grown in recent months, particularly in the time since a police officer in Ferguson shot 18-year-old Michael Brown. More
More retailers start their deals on Thanksgiving, but it's merely shifted some customers from Black Friday to Thursday. More
BlackBerry will pay $550 for your iPhone, if you switch to a Passport. More
Retail and restaurant workers in San Francisco may soon benefit from an expansive, first-of-its-kind bill of rights for retail workers, which the city's Board of Supervisors passed unanimously this week. More