International Price Indexes
The International Price Program (IPP) produces
and disseminates data on the Nation's foreign trade. The
IPP, as the primary source of data on price change in the
foreign trade sector of the U.S. economy, publishes
monthly indexes on import and export prices of U.S.
merchandise and services.
In 1961, a report on Federal Price Statistics prepared
by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) for
Congress' Joint Economic Committee suggested that
responsibility for compilation of import and export price
indexes be assigned to a federal statistical agency
"to obtain the attention and resources for these
indexes that we believe are essential." A further
study undertaken for NBER by Professors Irving Kravis and
Robert Lipsey gave more impetus to the project. In their
study, "Price Competitiveness in World Trade,"
Kravis and Lipsey outlined the need for such measures and
the feasibility of producing them. During this time, the
Bureau's Division of Price and Index Number Research,
largely because of its expertise in the development of
other price measures, had also begun research on the
feasibility of producing import and export price indexes.
The International Price Program was a natural result of
this research and was established in 1971.
The IPP produced its first annual international price
indexes in 1973. Largely as a response to changing
international economic conditions and the need on the
part of both the Federal Government and the private
sector to obtain these data on a more timely basis,
collection and publication of international price indexes
were begun on a quarterly basis in 1974. The IPP
increased the commodity area coverage and detail of its
indexes as more samples were initiated.
This expansion attempted to meet the needs of the user
public while moving toward the goal of producing indexes
that covered all goods. In early 1983, the IPP published
its first general index for all imports for the quarter
ended in December 1982. An index for all exports was
published in early 1984 for the December quarter of 1983.
Once full coverage in the import and export goods
categories was available, the Office of Management and
Budget in 1982 placed the IPP indexes on its list of
Principal Federal Economic Indicators together with the
Consumer Price Index and Producer Price Index. The IPP
continued to expand by introducing selected services
indexes. Various transportation services indexes were
added to the IPP in the late 1980s. Research is
continuing on other international services as data and
resources become available.
Beginning in 1989, BLS began producing a limited
number of indexes on a monthly basis. This was done
primarily to permit the Bureau of the Census to publish
their monthly merchandise trade statistics on an
inflation-adjusted basis. The Census Bureau discontinued
publishing its unit value indexes in July 1989 and began
publishing constant dollar merchandise trade values
deflated for the most part by the IPP measures in March
1990. With the release of March 1992 data, IPP added
import locality of origin indexes, and in January 1993
began monthly publication of the major merchandise