Consumer prices in November fell at the fastest rate since the government began its tracking series in 1947, the Labor Department reported Tuesday.

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) fell 1.9% in November, before seasonal adjustment, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said. On a seasonally adjusted basis, the decline was 1.7%. Econonmists were expecting a drop of 1.3%.

The November level of 212.425 (1982-84=100) was still 1.1% higher than in November 2007, suggesting that the specter of outright deflation appears in check, for now. However, the rate of increase has fallen considerably from 5.6% for the twelve months ending in July of this year.

The decline was almost entirely due to the drop in the price of gasoline, which was down 29.5% for the month and 47% from its peak in July. The overall energy index fell 17%. Excluding energy, the CPI-U was virtually unchanged and remains up 2% from November of last year.

The housing index fell 0.1% in November after being virtually unchanged in October. The index for shelter, virtually unchanged in October, rose 0.2% in November. Within shelter, the indexes for rent and owners¹ equivalent rent both rose 0.3%.