Inflation eased a bit in the Bay Area in February, offering a ray of hope for consumers who have been battered by fast-rising prices — but the cost of electricity provided by utilities such as PG&E zoomed higher.

Consumer prices rose 2.4% in the Bay Area last month compared to February 2023, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Tuesday.

While that annual increase was relatively tame, Bay Area consumer prices today are far higher than just two or three years ago.

“Everything seems to be getting more expensive,” said Junior Mendoza, a San Jose resident who was filling up his vehicle with gasoline on Tuesday at a Safeway Fuel Station on Berryessa Road. “It’s getting harder to pay for what we need.”

Current prices are 7.8% higher than two years ago — and an eye-popping 13.4% above prices three years ago, in February 2021, statistics posted on the federal labor agency’s website show.

Over the most recent one-year period, electric utility prices in the Bay Area soared by a whopping 29.8%. This segment of the consumer price index equates to the cost of PG&E electricity services in this region.

Put another way, the cost of electricity delivered in this region by utilities such as PG&E is rising more than 12 times faster than the overall inflation rate in the Bay Area.

Natural gas costs, however, decreased sharply. The cost of natural gas piped into the home by utilities such as PG&E plunged 12.9% in February over the one year.

“My PG&E bill keeps getting more expensive,” said Paulina Carter, a Campbell resident who was also filling her car. “Gasoline always costs too much.”

Unleaded gasoline prices in the region actually fell 2.7% over the one-year period that ended in February but remain significantly higher than they were several years ago.

Oakland-based PG&E has set a goal to reduce the annual increase in electricity and gas bills to roughly 2.5% a year. The company’s own estimates, as well as the inflation report, suggest this goal is elusive at best.

Nationwide, the U.S. inflation rate rose by 3.2% over the one-year period that ended in February. The 3.2% yearly increase means inflation is running hotter than the 3.1% gain the government reported for January.

“Inflation accelerated in February, showing the battle against inflation is not over and the last mile of getting it back down to 2% will be the toughest,” Brian Wesbury, chief economist with investment firm First Trust Advisors, wrote in an assessment about the nationwide inflation rate on Tuesday.

The Federal Reserve has raised interest rates to painfully high levels, hoping to choke off runaway inflation by cooling off economic activity as borrowing money becomes more expensive.

Wall Street and consumers have been hoping the Fed might start to make meaningful progress to curb inflation.

In the Bay Area, food prices were showing signs of moderating somewhat. Overall food prices rose 2.4% on a yearly basis, matching the pace of inflation in the Bay Area.

Food consumed at home rose 2.3% in the Bay Area during the most recent 12 months, less than the region’s overall inflation rate. Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, fruit, vegetables and dairy products all rose by less than the Bay Area’s overall inflation.

But the modest rise in food costs did little to ease the worries of beleaguered consumers in the Bay Area. Food consumed away from home in the Bay Area hopped higher by 3.7%, the new report shows.

“Food costs way too much,” said Wilson Payes, a San Jose resident. “Gasoline is less than it was, but it’s still expensive.”

The cost of food consumed away from home may be rising at an elevated rate in the Bay Area because more people are dining in restaurants with the relaxation of coronavirus-spawned restrictions.

Plus, more people are ordering food from restaurants delivered through services such as Doordash, Uber Eats and Grubhub.

Here are the changes in Bay Area prices for key food categories consumed at home. The numbers reflect the increases in this region over the one-year period that ended in February:

— Cereals and bakery goods, up 3.5%

— Fruits and vegetables, up 1%

— Meat, poultry, fish and eggs, up 0.3%

— Dairy products, up 0.3%

The annual increase in meat and related products represents a welcome contrast from what occurred in recent years when meat, poultry, fish and egg prices zoomed higher by a double-digit annual pace.

The seemingly endless bouts of inflation, running at an elevated rate since April 2021, continue to chew up the budgets of people such as Mendoza, who has a family of seven.

“People are living paycheck to paycheck,” Mendoza said. “Anytime there’s any kind of an increase in prices, it really takes a toll.”