Consumer prices in the United States fell in April for the first time in 13 months as energy prices tumbled and high unemployment limited businesses’ ability to raise prices.

The 0.1 per cent decrease in overall prices was pulled down by gas prices that are expected to drop further over the summer.

Core inflation, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, was flat in April, according to the Labor Department report issued yesterday. The recession in 2007 and 2008 has kept inflation tame, giving the Federal Reserve leeway to keep interest rates at historic lows to help jump-start economic growth.

“With the unemployment rate so close to 10 per cent, it is entirely understandable that the Fed wants to stick with its commitment to leave rates at near-zero,” said Paul Ashworth, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics.

The April drop in overall prices was the first decline since a similar dip in March 2009.