The Associated Press

Consumer prices rose by a bigger-than-expected amount in January, reflecting big increases in the cost of food and health care, the government reported Wednesday.

The Labor Department said that its’ closely watched Consumer Price Index posted a gain of 0.4 percent last month, matching the December increase and was higher than economists had expected.

Core inflation, which excludes food and energy, showed an increase of 0.3 percent, the biggest jump in this measure in seven months. The cost of clothing, education, lodging and tobacco also moved higher.

The higher inflation readings were certain to attract the attention of the Federal Reserve, which has been cutting interest rates aggressively to ward off a recession. The Fed has said that it believes the sharp economic slowdown would keep inflation pressures from rising.