U.S. consumer prices were unchanged in November, as declines in energy and food costs offset increases in airline fares and medical care.

The Labor Department says the flat reading for consumer prices last month followed a modest 0.2 percent increase in October and outright declines in August and September. Core inflation, which excludes energy and food, was up 0.2 percent in November.

Over the past year, overall inflation has risen 0.5 percent while core inflation is up 2 percent.

Those 12-month gains, while modest, are the fastest in more than a year. That could be used by the Federal Reserve as justification for the first interest rate hike in nearly a decade.