Transmission of material in this release is embargoed until
8:30 a.m. (EST) January 20, 2016 USDL-16-0109
Technical information: (202) 691-7000 Reed.Steve@bls.gov www.bls.gov/cpi
Media Contact: (202) 691-5902 PressOffice@bls.gov
CONSUMER PRICE INDEX – DECEMBER 2015
The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) declined 0.1 percent
in December on a seasonally adjusted basis, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 0.7
percent before seasonal adjustment.
The indexes for energy and food both declined for the second month in a row,
leading to the decline in the seasonally adjusted all items index. The energy
index fell 2.4 percent as all major component energy indexes declined. The
food index fell 0.2 percent as the index for food at home decreased 0.5 percent,
led by a sharp decline in the index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs.
The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.1 percent in December, its
smallest increase since August. The index for shelter continued to rise, and
the indexes for medical care, household furnishings and operations, motor
vehicle insurance, education, used cars and trucks, and tobacco also increased
in December. However, a number of indexes declined, including those for
apparel, airline fares, personal care, new vehicles, and communication.
The all items index rose 0.7 percent over the last 12 months, compared to the
0.5 percent 12 month increase for the period ending November. The food index
rose 0.8 percent over the last 12 months, though the index for food at home
declined. The energy index fell 12.6 percent, with all its major components
decreasing. The index for all items less food and energy increased 2.1 percent
over the last 12 months.
Table A. Percent changes in CPI for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U): U.S. city
Seasonally adjusted changes from
June July Aug. Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec. ended
2015 2015 2015 2015 2015 2015 2015 Dec.
All items.................. .3 .1 -.1 -.2 .2 .0 -.1 .7
Food...................... .3 .2 .2 .4 .1 -.1 -.2 .8
Food at home............. .4 .3 .3 .3 .1 -.3 -.5 -.4
Food away from home (1).. .2 .0 .2 .5 .2 .2 .1 2.6
Energy.................... 1.7 .1 -2.0 -4.7 .3 -1.3 -2.4 -12.6
Energy commodities....... 3.1 .7 -4.1 -8.6 .4 -2.4 -4.0 -20.0
Gasoline (all types).... 3.4 .9 -4.1 -9.0 .4 -2.4 -3.9 -19.7
Fuel oil (1)............ -1.9 -3.4 -8.1 -2.4 -1.1 -1.3 -7.8 -31.4
Energy services.......... .2 -.6 .5 -.4 .2 -.1 -.8 -4.3
Electricity............. .2 -.4 .3 -.5 .4 .3 -.4 -1.2
Utility (piped) gas
service.............. .3 -1.4 1.2 -.3 -.7 -1.9 -2.3 -14.9
All items less food and
energy................. .2 .1 .1 .2 .2 .2 .1 2.1
Commodities less food and
energy commodities.... -.1 -.1 -.1 .0 -.1 -.2 -.1 -.4
New vehicles............ .1 -.2 .0 -.1 -.2 .1 -.1 .2
Used cars and trucks.... -.4 -.6 -.4 -.2 -.3 -.1 .1 .4
Apparel................. -.1 .3 .3 -.3 -.8 -.3 -.2 -.9
Medical care commodities .0 .1 .3 -.2 .2 .3 -.1 1.5
Services less energy
services.............. .3 .2 .1 .3 .3 .3 .2 2.9
Shelter................. .3 .4 .2 .3 .3 .2 .2 3.2
Transportation services .4 -.2 -.3 .1 .2 .6 .3 2.6
Medical care services... -.2 .1 .0 .3 .8 .4 .1 2.9
1 Not seasonally adjusted.
Consumer Price Index Data for December 2015
The food index decreased 0.2 percent in December, after declining 0.1 percent
in November. The food at home index fell 0.5 percent, its largest decline
since March 2015. Five of the six major grocery store food group indexes
declined in December. The meats, poultry, fish, and eggs index declined the
most, falling 1.4 percent, its largest decrease since August 1979. The index
for beef fell 2.4 percent and the eggs index declined 3.4 percent. The index
for fruits and vegetables fell 0.5 percent in December after rising in each
of the last 5 months. The fresh vegetables index rose 0.4 percent but the
index for fresh fruits declined 1.0 percent. The index for other food at home
fell 0.3 percent in December, and the indexes for cereals and bakery products
and for nonalcoholic beverages both fell 0.1 percent. The only major grocery
store food group index to rise in December was dairy and related products,
which increased 0.1 percent. The index for food at home has declined 0.4
percent over the past year, with the indexes for dairy and related products
and for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs both falling over the past 12 months
and more than offsetting increases in the other major grocery store food group
indexes. The index for food away from home increased 0.1 percent in December
and has risen 2.6 percent over the last 12 months.
The energy index fell 2.4 percent in December following a 1.3 percent decline
in November. The gasoline index declined 3.9 percent, its fourth decline in
the last 5 months. (Before seasonal adjustment, gasoline prices declined 5.9
percent in December.) The fuel oil index continued to decline, falling 7.8
percent in December, its seventh consecutive decrease. The index for natural
gas fell 2.3 percent in December, and the electricity index fell 0.4 percent
after rising in October and November. All the energy component indexes have
declined over the past year, with the fuel oil index falling 31.4 percent and
the gasoline index decreasing 19.7 percent.
All items less food and energy
The index for all items less food and energy increased 0.1 percent in December.
The shelter index increased 0.2 percent in December, the same increase as the
prior month. The indexes for rent and for owners' equivalent rent both increased
0.2 percent, while the index for lodging away from home turned down, falling 0.5
percent after rising in each of the three previous months. The medical care index
rose 0.1 percent in December, although the indexes for physicians' services and
for hospital services were both unchanged. The index for motor vehicle insurance
rose 0.5 percent in December after increasing 1.1 percent in November. The index
for household furnishings and operations rose 0.2 percent in December after
declining in October and November. The index for used cars and trucks also turned
up in December, rising 0.1 percent after falling in each of the 7 previous months.
The indexes for tobacco and for education both increased in December, each rising
0.3 percent. In contrast, several indexes declined in December. The apparel index
fell 0.2 percent, its fourth decline in a row. The index for airline fares, which
rose in October and November, fell 1.1 percent in December. The indexes for
personal care, new vehicles, communication, and alcoholic beverages all declined
slightly in December, each falling 0.1 percent. The recreation index was unchanged.
The index for all items less food and energy increased 2.1 percent over the past
12 months, its highest 12-month change since the period ending July 2012. The
indexes for shelter, medical care, motor vehicle insurance, education, and tobacco
are among those that have increased more than 2.1 percent. The indexes for
personal care, new vehicles, used cars and trucks, alcoholic beverages, and
recreation have all increased, but less than 2.1 percent. The indexes for apparel,
airline fare, communication, and household furnishings and operations have all
declined over the past 12 months.
Not seasonally adjusted CPI measures
The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.7 percent
over the last 12 months to an index level of 236.525 (1982-84=100). For the month,
the index declined 0.3 percent prior to seasonal adjustment.
The Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W)
increased 0.4 percent over the last 12 months to an index level of 230.791
(1982-84=100). For the month, the index declined 0.4 percent prior to seasonal
The Chained Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (C-CPI-U) increased 0.3
percent over the last 12 months. For the month, the index declined 0.5 percent on
a not seasonally adjusted basis. Please note that the indexes for the past 10 to 12
months are subject to revision.
Year in Review
The CPI rose 0.7 percent in 2015, a slightly smaller increase than the 0.8 percent
rise in 2014 and the second smallest December-December increase in the last 50 years.
The index has increased at a 1.9 percent annual rate over the last 10 years.
The energy index declined sharply for the second year in a row, falling 12.6 percent
in 2015 after a 10.6 percent decline in 2014. All the major component energy indexes
declined in 2015. The fuel oil index declined the most, falling 31.4 percent after
decreasing 19.1 percent in 2014. The gasoline index fell 19.7 percent after a 21.0
percent decline the previous year. The index for natural gas, which rose for the
first time in six years in 2014, declined 14.9 percent in 2015. The electricity index
declined for the first time since 2012, falling 1.2 percent in 2015. After the recent
declines, the energy index has risen only at a 0.2 percent annual rate over the last
The index for food rose 0.8 percent in 2015. This compares to a 3.4 percent increase
in 2014 and is the smallest increase since a decline in 2009. The index for food at
home fell in 2015, declining 0.4 percent. This is only the third time it has declined
in the past 50 years (1976 and 2009 are the other years it declined). Four of the six
major grocery store food group indexes increased in 2015, but none of the increases
were large. The index for cereals and bakery products rose 1.0 percent after
increasing 0.5 percent in 2014, and the index for other food at home also rose 1.0
percent. The index for fruits and vegetables, which rose 3.2 percent in 2014, advanced
only 0.6 percent in 2015. The index for nonalcoholic beverages also rose in 2015,
increasing 0.3 percent after advancing 0.7 percent the prior year. However, the index
for dairy and related products fell in 2015, declining 3.9 percent following a 5.3
percent increase in 2014. The index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs also turned
down in 2015, falling 2.2 percent after a 9.2 percent increase the prior year. The
index for beef and veal fell 4.3 percent in 2015 after increasing 18.7 percent in
2014. The index for food away from home rose 2.6 percent in 2015, in between its 2.1
percent increase in 2013 and 3.0 percent increase in 2014. Over the last 10 years the
food index has risen at an annual rate of 2.5 percent, with the food at home index
rising at a 2.3 percent rate and the food away from home index increasing at a 2.8
The index for all items less food and energy accelerated in 2015, increasing 2.1
percent after a 1.6 percent increase in 2014. It has risen at a 1.9 percent rate over
the past 10 years. The shelter index continued to accelerate, increasing 3.2 percent
in 2015 after rising 2.5 percent in 2013 and 2.9 percent in 2014. The rent index rose
3.7 percent, while the index for owners' equivalent rent advanced 3.1 percent. The
index for medical care, however, posted a smaller increase in 2015, rising 2.6 percent
after a 3.0 percent increase the prior year. Within the medical care group, the index
for prescription drugs rose 2.4 percent, while the hospital services index increased
4.2 percent. The index for motor vehicle insurance rose 5.7 percent in 2015 after
increasing 4.7 percent in 2014. The education index increased 3.7 percent, and the
personal care index rose 1.4 percent. Several indexes posted very modest increases in
2015: The new vehicles index rose 0.2 percent, following a 0.5 percent advance the
prior year. The index for used cars and trucks, which declined in 2014, rose 0.4
percent in 2015. The recreation index rose 0.7 percent, and the index for alcoholic
beverages increased 0.5 percent.
A number of indexes declined in 2015. The apparel index decreased 0.9 percent after
falling 2.0 percent in 2014. The index for airline fares fell for the third year in a
row, declining 3.0 percent. The index for household furnishings and operations
decreased slightly in 2015, falling 0.1 percent, also its third consecutive decline.
The communication index fell 0.6 percent in 2015, its sixth consecutive yearly decline.
The Consumer Price Index for January 2016 is scheduled to be released on Friday,
February 19, 2016, at 8:30 a.m. (EST).
Facilities for Sensory Impaired
Information from this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals
upon request. Voice phone: 202-691-5200, Federal Relay Services: 1-800-877-8339.
Brief Explanation of the CPI
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measure of the average change in prices over
time of goods and services purchased by households. The Bureau of Labor Statistics
publishes CPIs for two population groups: (1) the CPI for Urban Wage Earners and
Clerical Workers (CPI-W), which covers households of wage earners and clerical workers
that comprise approximately 28 percent of the total population and (2) the CPI for All
Urban Consumers (CPI-U) and the Chained CPI for All Urban Consumers (C-CPI-U), which
covers approximately 89 percent of the total population and includes, in addition to
wage earners and clerical worker households, groups such as professional, managerial,
and technical workers, the self-employed, short-term workers, the unemployed, and
retirees and others not in the labor force.
The CPIs are based on prices of food, clothing, shelter, fuels, transportation fares,
charges for doctors’ and dentists’ services, drugs, and other goods and services that
people buy for day-to-day living. Prices are collected each month in 87 urban areas
across the country from about 6,000 housing units and approximately 24,000 retail
establishments-department stores, supermarkets, hospitals, filling stations, and other
types of stores and service establishments. All taxes directly associated with the
purchase and use of items are included in the index. Prices of fuels and a few other
items are obtained every month in all 87 locations. Prices of most other commodities
and services are collected every month in the three largest geographic areas and every
other month in other areas. Prices of most goods and services are obtained by personal
visits or telephone calls of the Bureau’s trained representatives.
In calculating the index, price changes for the various items in each location are
averaged together with weights, which represent their importance in the spending of the
appropriate population group. Local data are then combined to obtain a U.S. city average.
For the CPI-U and CPI-W separate indexes are also published by size of city, by region
of the country, for cross-classifications of regions and population-size classes, and
for 27 local areas. Area indexes do not measure differences in the level of prices among
cities; they only measure the average change in prices for each area since the base
period. For the C-CPI-U data are issued only at the national level. It is important to
note that the CPI-U and CPI-W are considered final when released, but the C-CPI-U is
issued in preliminary form and subject to two annual revisions.
The index measures price change from a designed reference date. For the CPI-U and the
CPI-W the reference base is 1982-84 equals 100. The reference base for the C-CPI-U is
December 1999 equals 100. An increase of 16.5 percent from the reference base, for
example, is shown as 116.500. This change can also be expressed in dollars as follows:
the price of a base period market basket of goods and services in the CPI has risen
from $10 in 1982-84 to $11.65.
For further details visit the CPI home page on the Internet at www.bls.gov/cpi/
or contact our CPI Information and Analysis Section on (202) 691-7000.
Note on Sampling Error in the Consumer Price Index
The CPI is a statistical estimate that is subject to sampling error because it is based
upon a sample of retail prices and not the complete universe of all prices. BLS
calculates and publishes estimates of the 1-month, 2-month, 6-month and 12-month percent
change standard errors annually, for the CPI-U. These standard error estimates can be
used to construct confidence intervals for hypothesis testing. For example, the estimated
standard error of the 1 month percent change is 0.04 percent for the U.S. All Items
Consumer Price Index. This means that if we repeatedly sample from the universe of all
retail prices using the same methodology, and estimate a percentage change for each sample,
then 95% of these estimates would be within 0.08 percent of the 1 month percentage change
based on all retail prices. For example, for a 1-month change of 0.2 percent in the All
Items CPI for All Urban Consumers, we are 95 percent confident that the actual percent
change based on all retail prices would fall between 0.12 and 0.28 percent. For the latest
data, including information on how to use the estimates of standard error, see "Variance
Estimates for Price Changes in the Consumer Price Index, January-December 2014." These
data are available on the CPI home page (www.bls.gov/cpi), or by using the following
Calculating Index Changes
Movements of the indexes from one month to another are usually expressed as percent changes
rather than changes in index points, because index point changes are affected by the level
of the index in relation to its base period while percent changes are not. The example
below illustrates the computation of index point and percent changes.
Percent changes for 3-month and 6-month periods are expressed as annual rates and are
computed according to the standard formula for compound growth rates. These data indicate
what the percent change would be if the current rate were maintained for a 12-month period.
Index Point Change
Less previous index 201.800
Equals index point change .616
Index point difference .616
Divided by the previous index 201.800
Results multiplied by one hundred 0.003x100
Equals percent change 0.3
A Note on the Use of Seasonally Adjusted and Unadjusted Data
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) produces both unadjusted and seasonally adjusted data.
Seasonally adjusted data are computed using seasonal factors derived by the X-13ARIMA-SEATS
Seasonal Adjustment Method. These factors are updated each January, and the new factors are
used to revise the previous five years of seasonally adjusted data. For more information on
data revisions and exceptions to the usual revision schedule, please see the Fact Sheet on
Seasonal Adjustment (www.bls.gov/cpi/cpisaqanda.htm) and the Timeline of Seasonal Adjustment
Methodological Changes (www.bls.gov/cpi/cpiseastimeline.htm).
How to Use Seasonally Adjusted and Unadjusted Data
For analyzing short-term price trends in the economy, seasonally adjusted changes are usually
preferred since they eliminate the effect of changes that normally occur at the same time and
in about the same magnitude every year—such as price movements resulting from changing
climatic conditions, production cycles, model changeovers, holidays, and sales. This allows
data users to focus on changes that are not typical for the time of year. The unadjusted data
are of primary interest to consumers concerned about the prices they actually pay. Unadjusted
data are also used extensively for escalation purposes. Many collective bargaining contract
agreements and pension plans, for example, tie compensation changes to the Consumer Price Index
before adjustment for seasonal variation. BLS advises against the use of seasonally adjusted
data in escalation agreements because seasonally adjusted series are revised annually.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics uses Intervention Analysis Seasonal Adjustment for some CPI
series. Sometimes extreme values or sharp movements can distort the underlying seasonal pattern
of price change. Intervention Analysis Seasonal Adjustment is a process by which the distortions
caused by such unusual events are estimated and removed from the data prior to calculation of
seasonal factors. The resulting seasonal factors, which more accurately represent the seasonal
pattern, are then applied to the unadjusted data.
2015 Series Adjusted Using Intervention Analysis Seasonal Adjustment
For the seasonal factors introduced in January 2015, BLS adjusted 33 series using Intervention
Analysis Seasonal Adjustment, including selected food and beverage items, motor fuels, electricity
and vehicles. For example, this procedure was used for the Motor fuel series to offset the effects
of events such as the response in crude oil markets to the worldwide economic downturn in 2008.
Revision of Seasonally Adjusted Indexes
Seasonally adjusted data, including the U.S. city average All items index levels, are subject to
revision for up to five years after their original release. Every year, economists in the CPI
calculate new seasonal factors for seasonally adjusted series and apply them to the last five years
of data. Seasonally adjusted indexes beyond the last five years of data are considered to be final
and not subject to revision. In January 2015, revised seasonal factors and seasonally adjusted
indexes for 2009-2014 were calculated and published. For directly adjusted series, the seasonal
factors for 2014 will be applied to data for 2015 to produce the seasonally adjusted 2015 indexes.
Determining Seasonal Status
Each year the seasonal status of every series is reevaluated based upon certain statistical criteria.
Using these criteria, BLS economists determine whether a series should change its status: from "not
seasonally adjusted" to "seasonally adjusted," or vice versa. If any of the 82 components of the U.S.
city average all items index change their seasonal adjustment status from seasonally adjusted to not
seasonally adjusted, not seasonally adjusted data will be used in the aggregation of the dependent
series for the last five years, but the seasonally adjusted indexes before that period will not be
changed. Thirty-two of the 82 components of the U.S. city average all items index are not seasonally
adjusted for 2015.
For additional information on seasonal adjustment in the CPI, please write to the Bureau of Labor
Statistics, Division of Consumer Prices and Price Indexes, Washington, DC 20212 or contact Justin
Yarros or Samuel An at (202) 691-6968, or by e-mail at Yarros.Justin@bls.gov or An.Samuel@bls.gov.
If you have general questions about the CPI, please call our information staff at (202) 691-7000.
Recalculated Seasonally Adjusted Indexes to be Available on February 17, 2016
Each year with the release of the January CPI, seasonal adjustment factors are recalculated to
reflect price movements from the just-completed calendar year. This routine annual recalculation
may result in revisions to seasonally adjusted indexes for the previous 5 years. BLS will make
available recalculated seasonally adjusted indexes, as well as recalculated seasonal adjustment
factors, for the period January 2011 through December 2015, on Wednesday, February 17, 2016. This
date is two working days before the scheduled release of the January 2016 CPI on Friday,
February 19, 2016.
The revised indexes and seasonal factors will be available on the internet. The address is
http://www.bls.gov/cpi/cpisapage.htm. Look under Seasonal Adjustment in the CPI and select Revised
Seasonally Adjusted Indexes and Factors, 2011-2015.
For further information please contact Samuel An by electronic mail at An.Samuel@bls.gov or by
telephone at (202) 691-6970 or Justin Yarros by electronic mail at Yarros.Justin@bls.gov or by
telephone at (202) 691-5415.