After half a century of trying to prevent prices from rising too fast, economic policymakers have a new concern: Prices aren't rising fast enough.
Government statistics show that average prices for products have declined in the past year, including those of cars, clothing, computers, furniture, gasoline and heating oil. So, too, have the prices for services such as telephones, hotel rooms and airplane tickets, even as costs for other services such as health care, housing, education and cable television continued to rise.
The broadest measure of prices in the economy shows they rose less than 1 percent during the 12 months that ended in September, the smallest increase in 50 years.
Until now, the slowdown in overall inflation has been a boon to the American economy, giving consumers more for their money and allowing living standards to continue to rise even during a period of slow economic...