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Life in U.S. most expensive in Hawaii, New York; least expensive South and North Dakota

Beachgoers are pictured at Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii November 9, 2011. (Credit: Reuters/Chris Wattie)
Beachgoers are pictured at Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii November 9, 2011. (Credit: Reuters/Chris Wattie)

WASHINGTON | Wed Jun 12, 2013 2:38pm EDT

(Reuters) - Life is most expensive for people living in Hawaii, New York and Washington, D.C., and cheapest for those in South Dakota, North Dakota and Mississippi, according to U.S. government data released on Wednesday.

The Commerce Department posted the statistics as a prototype - it may change the methodology it used in the future - and the data only goes to 2011.

Nonetheless, the report provides a glimpse of how much it costs to live in different places by creating a way to compare price levels across states. It also allows the federal government to evaluate personal incomes adjusted for inflation at the state level for the first time.

People in Hawaii paid 116 percent of the national average prices for a standardized mix of goods and services in 2011, according to the report. Those in New York paid 114.3 percent and those in the nation's capital 114.2 percent.

The reason rested on high rents and prices for services, according to the report. In 2011 Hawaii had the highest median housing costs for renters in the country, $1,308 a month, according to the U.S. Census.

Lower rents and prices for services helped keep down costs for people in South Dakota, who paid 87 percent of average prices in 2011, and in North Dakota and Mississippi, who paid 88.7 percent, according to the Commerce Department.

The new measure allowed the federal government to estimate personal incomes adjusting for inflation. The Commerce Department has in the past only used net earnings to determine personal income in a state, and it emphasized the new calculations are experimental.

Many of the same places with the lowest costs of living also registered the largest growth in personal incomes.

Personal incomes adjusted for inflation rose the most in South Dakota from 2010 to 2011, by 10.4 percent, the calculations showed. It was followed by North Dakota at 9.5 percent, Iowa at 6.1 percent, Nebraska at 6 percent, and Texas at 4.3 percent.

Those states are in the midst of a commodities boom led by natural gas and agriculture that has also created thriving job markets. North Dakota has the lowest unemployment rate of all states, 3.3 percent.

Meanwhile, Mississippi had the smallest increase in personal incomes when adjusted for inflation, of 1.3 percent. Maine followed with growth of 1.4 percent, then Rhode Island at 1.5 percent, and Vermont and New Mexico, both at 1.6 percent.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Vicki Allen)

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