By John S. McClenahen The U. S. Labor Department's closely watched Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased just 0.2%, seasonally adjusted, in February, the same as in January. The so-called core CPI, which excludes volatile food and energy prices, rose 0.3% in February, one-tenth of a percentage point higher than the 0.2% recorded in January. For the 12 months ending in February, the unadjusted CPI increased only 1.1%. That's the smallest year-to-year gain since 1964, notes Stan Shipley, a senior economist at Merrill Lynch & Co., New York. Meanwhile, initial claims for unemployment benefits continue to fall. For the week ending March 16, initial claims totaled 371,000, a decline of 12,000 from the previous week's revised figure of 383,000, reports the Labor Department's Employment & Training Administration.