(Bloomberg News) The cost of living in the U.S. rose more than forecast in August as consumers paid more for food, energy and housing.

The consumer-price index increased 0.4 percent after a 0.5 percent gain in July, figures from the Labor Department showed today in Washington. Economists projected a 0.2 percent gain, according to the median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey. The so-called core gauge, which excludes volatile food and fuel prices, climbed 0.2 percent for a second month.

The rise in commodity prices earlier this year prompted some companies such as Lowe's Cos. to pass on the higher costs at a time when Americans' wages are stagnating. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke last week said inflation was likely to moderate as some price increases prove "transitory."

"There has been more momentum in underlying inflation than many had expected," Jeremy Lawson, a senior U.S. economist at BNP Paribas in New York. Still, "inflation won't be a constraint on Fed policy. The Fed will be focused on the real economy; they know inflation will be moderating."

Applications for U.S. unemployment benefits unexpectedly rose last week to the highest level since the end of June, underscoring a struggling labor market, the Labor Department also said. Jobless claims climbed by 11,000 to 428,000 in the week ended Sept. 10 that included the Labor Day holiday.

A Federal Reserve Bank of New York report manufacturing in the region contracted at a faster pace in September. The Federal Reserve Bank of New York's general economic index dropped to minus 8.8, the weakest reading since November, from minus 7.7 in August. Readings less than zero signal companies in the so- called Empire State Index, which covers New York, northern New Jersey, and southern Connecticut, are cutting back.

Stock-index futures pared gains after the figures. The contract on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index expiring in December rose 0.2 percent to 1,184.5 at 8:48 a.m. in New York after climbing 0.7 percent earlier.

Today's consumer-price report also showed inflation- adjusted hourly wages fell 0.6 percent in August, the most since July 2008, and were down 1.9 percent from the same month a year ago.

The forecast gain in consumer prices was based on the median of 84 economists in a Bloomberg survey in which estimates ranged from a decline of 0.2 percent to a gain of 0.4 percent.

The results included a 0.4 percent jump in rents, the most since June 2008. Shelter costs climbed 0.2 percent.