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Overview of BLS Statistics on Inflation and Prices

Inflation can be defined as the overall general upward price movement of goods and services in an economy. BLS has various indexes that measure different aspects of inflation.

BLS statistics related to inflation:

Consumer Price Index

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) program produces monthly data on changes in the prices paid by urban consumers for a representative basket of goods and services. There are separate indexes for two groups or populations of consumers:

  • The CPI for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) is the index most often reported by the national media.
  • The CPI for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) is the index most often used for wage escalation agreements.

The CPI Inflation Calculator allows users to calculate the value of current dollars in an earlier period, or to calculate the current value of dollar amounts from years ago.

Consumer price indexes often are used to escalate or adjust payments for rents, wages, alimony, child support and other obligations that may be affected by changes in the cost of living. There is a fact sheet explaining how to use the CPI for escalating contracts.

An additional price index called the Chained Consumer Price Index (C-CPI-U) is also available. This measure is designed to be a closer approximation to a "cost-of-living" index than the CPI-U or CPI-W.

Producer Price Indexes

The Producer Price Indexes measure changes in the selling prices received by domestic producers of goods, services, and construction. When we release PPI data, the news media most often reports the percent change in the index for Final Demand.

Producer Price Indexes are also used for contract price adjustments. See our fact sheet that explains these adjustments.

Import and Export Prices

The International Price Program measured change in the prices of imports and exports of nonmilitary goods between the United States and the rest of the world.

Employment Cost Trends

This program publishes quarterly statistics that measure change in labor costs (also called employment costs or compensation costs) over time; quarterly data measuring the level of costs per hour worked are also published. Indexes are available for total labor costs, and separately for wages and salaries and for benefit costs. Some information is available by region, major industry group, major occupational group, and bargaining status.

Contract Escalation

Consumer Price Indexes, Producer Price Indexes, and the Employment Cost Index may be used to escalate contracts. See the Contract Escalation page for more information.

Price and Index Number Research

The Price and Index Number Research (PINR) division conducts research to strengthen and improve existing price and expenditure measurement concepts and techniques and enhance the analytical usefulness of BLS programs.



Last Modified Date: June 5, 2019