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Impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on Consumer Price Index data for September 2020

This page provides further information on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic for the September 2020 Consumer Price Index news release.

Collection mode

Data collection for Septemer 2020 involved no personal visits, so all data were collected either online or through telephone interviews. An example of this is full-service restaurants; even if a restaurant was open for dine-in service, as well as open for take-out or delivery, the data collector attempted to obtain the price from the restaurant’s website or by telephone call with the respondent, rather than a personal visit. 

Table 1. Collection modes for the commodities and services price survey, percent
Month 2019 2020
Personal visit Telephone Online Personal visit Telephone Online

March

74 10 16 44 14 42

April

74 10 16 0 18 82

May

74 10 16 0 17 83

June

73 10 17 0 17 83

July

74 10 16 0 17 83

August

73 10 17 0 17 83

September

73 10 17 0 17 83

Average Feb 2019–Feb 2020

73 10 17      
Table 2. Collection modes for the housing survey, percent
Month 2019 2020
Personal visit Telephone Personal visit Telephone

March

36 64 30 70

April

38 62 0 100

May

39 61 0 100

June

38 62 0 100

July

37 63 0 100

August

37 63 0 100

September

38 62 0 100

Average Feb 2019–Feb 2020

38 62    

Response rates

For some CPI market basket categories, the percentage of the sample collected in September 2020 was notably lower than average. These included leased cars and trucks, televisions, food at employee sites and schools, and new vehicles. 

There was a lower percentage of collected rents in September 2020 compared with September 2019. 

Table 3. Response rates for the commodities and services price survey, percent
Month 2019 2020
Collected prices Uncollected prices Collected prices Uncollected prices

March

87 13 76 25

April

86 14 65 35

May

87 13 68 32

June

86 14 70 30

July

86 14 70 30

August

86 14 72 28

September

86 14 73 27

Average Feb 2019–Feb 2020

86 14    
Table 4. Response rates for the housing survey, percent
Month 2019 2020
Collected rents Vacant units Uncollected rents Collected rents Vacant units Uncollected rents

March

67 6 27 63 5 32

April

68 6 26 61 4 35

May

69 6 25 61 4 35

June

68 6 26 62 4 34

July

69 6 25 60 4 36

August

67 6 27 62 4 34

September

65 6 29 60 4 36

Average Feb 2019–Feb 2020

68 6 26      

Imputation  

In September 2020, the CPI continued to impute the majority of uncollected prices from collected prices within the same item and geographic area (home cell). However, the number of prices imputed from a different item area cell (different cell) increased from the same time in 2019. There were no instances where the data from the previous month was imputed to the current month (carry forward).

Table 5. Imputation source for the commodities and services price survey, percent
Month 2019 2020
Home cell Different cell Carry forward Home cell Different cell Carry forward

March

94 6 0 90 10 0

April

92 8 0 84 16 0

May

92 8 0 85 15 0

June

92 8 0 86 14 0

July

92 8 0 86 14 0

August

91 9 0 86 14 0

September

93 7 0 87 13 0

Nonvacant units with respondents previously reporting, but not currently reporting, receive non-interview imputation for use in the CPI. Vacant units that were previously occupied by renters are also imputed for use in estimation by separate methods. Table 6 below shows a reduction in vacancy imputation performed in the current month relative to the same time last year. 

Table 6. Imputation source for the housing survey, percent
Month 2019 2020
Noninterview Vacancy Noninterview Vacancy

March

82 18 87 13

April

82 18 90 10

May

82 18 91 9

June

81 19 89 11

July

81 19 89 11

August

83 17 91 9

September

83 17 90 10

Cell, series, index, or observation suppression

Table 7 lists the data series that were both inadequate for publication in September 2020 because of insufficient sample and that were adequate over the year before March 2020. 

Table 7. List of data inadequate for publication for September 2020
LABSTAT ID Item Area

CPI-U Series

CUUR0000SETA03

Leased cars and trucks U.S. city average

CUUR0000SS62032

Admission to sporting events U.S. city average

CPI-W Series

CWURS49FSAGS

Other personal services Urban Hawaii

CWUR0000SETA03

Leased cars and trucks U.S. city average

C-CPI-U Series

No series were inadequate for publication.

AP Series

APU0000712406

Peppers, sweet, per lb. (453.6 gm) U.S. city average

APU0000712412

Broccoli, per lb. (453.6 gm) U.S. city average

APU0000FD2101

All Ham (Excluding Canned Ham and Luncheon Slices), per lb. (453.6 gm) U.S. city average

APU0100711211

Bananas, per lb. (453.6 gm) Northeast

APU0100711415

Strawberries, dry pint, per 12 oz. (340.2 gm) Northeast

APU0100FD2101

All Ham (Excluding Canned Ham and Luncheon Slices), per lb. (453.6 gm) Northeast

APU0200711411

Grapefruit, per lb. (453.6 gm) Midwest urban

APU0300711311

Oranges, Navel, per lb. (453.6 gm) South

APU0300716116

Margarine, soft, tubs, per lb. (453.6 gm) South

APU0400704312

Ham, boneless, excluding canned, per lb. (453.6 gm) West

APU0400705111

Frankfurters, all meat or all beef, per lb. (453.6 gm) West

APU0400FD2101

All Ham (Excluding Canned Ham and Luncheon Slices), per lb. (453.6 gm) West

APU0100FD4101

All Other Pork (Excluding Canned Ham and Luncheon Slices), per lb. (453.6 gm) Northeast

APU0200709112

Milk, fresh, whole, fortified, per gal. (3.8 lit) Midwest urban

APU0400702212

Bread, whole wheat, pan, per lb. (453.6 gm) West

APU0400711412

Lemons, per lb. (453.6 gm) West

APU0000711311

Oranges, Navel, per lb. (453.6 gm) U.S. city average

APU0300711415

Strawberries, dry pint, per 12 oz. (340.2 gm) South

APU0300720311

Wine, red and white table, all sizes, any origin, per 1 liter (33.8 oz.) South

APU0200712112

Potatoes, white, per lb. (453.6 gm) Midwest urban

APU0200720311

Wine, red and white table, all sizes, any origin, per 1 liter (33.8 oz.) Midwest urban

Measures of error

The standard error of the CPI’s change can be used to construct confidence intervals to determine whether the change for a particular CPI series is significantly different from zero. Table 8 shows the 1- and 12-month standard error for selected indexes at the U.S. level. 

Table 8. Impact on standard errors of one- and twelve-month percent changes
Expenditure category One month Twelve month
Sep 2019 Sep 2020 Sep 2019 Sep 2020

All items

0.04 0.03 0.09 0.09

Food and beverages

0.07 0.08 0.21 0.14

Food

0.08 0.08 0.23 0.16

Housing

0.06 0.04 0.13 0.14

Apparel

0.54 0.5 0.81 0.8

Transportation

0.1 0.13 0.16 0.26

Medical care

0.2 0.1 0.45 0.46

Recreation

0.16 0.17 0.38 0.37

Education and communication

0.11 0.12 0.21 0.21

Other goods and services

0.1 0.12 0.26 0.29

Energy

0.16 0.09 0.28 0.28

All items less food and energy

0.04 0.04 0.09 0.11

Last Modified Date: October 13, 2020