Clothing prices dropped 1.3 per cent in April - the largest since apparel prices fell 1.9 per cent in January 1949.

Economists offered several reasons for the slump. Retailers, coping with the economic slowdown, heavily discounted merchandise, including big pre-Easter holiday sales, to get rid of inventory pileups and lure people into stores.

Demand has also weakened for some items as consumers, concerned about the economy, have become more selective shoppers, they said.

Economists also said part of the decline in clothing prices might reflect a statistical quirk related to the government adjusting prices for seasonal factors.

In the inflation report, the drop in clothing prices in April was led by a 2.1 per cent decline in shoe prices and a 1.8 per cent drop in the price of women's and girls' apparel. Prices for men's, boys' and babies' wear also fell.

Those decreases, along with others, including a 1.3 per cent drop in airline prices, helped to blunt higher prices for other goods and services.