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Effects of COVID-19 Pandemic and Response on the U.S. Import and Export Price Indexes

The U.S. Import and Export Price Indexes survey publishes indexes that measure average price movements for imports to the United States and exports from the United States on a monthly basis.

  1. How are prices collected by the survey? Most prices used to calculate the U.S. Import and Export Price Indexes are collected from sample establishments that are selected based upon their relative trade value in imports and exports during the course of a year. Sample establishments are asked to provide prices on a monthly basis, as close as possible to the first day of the reference month. Prices are collected through a secure internet site. When a sampled item is not traded, the respondent is asked to provide an estimated price if one is available. When a price is not available, it is imputed by the prices of similar items that have been collected. In some areas such as crude petroleum, select metals, diamonds, air passenger fares, and export grains, data are collected from alternative data sources.
  2. Will data collection be affected? Data collection may be affected both by the availability of survey respondents and the availability of alternative data sources. The prices are provided by business survey respondents. All of the data are collected electronically through a secure internet site. If some respondents are unable to provide prices as the result of an interruption in normal operations, collection will be adversely impacted. Some prices depend on alternative data sources from other government and corporate entities. Any interruption in the availability of the data may result in temporarily suppressing the publication of select price indexes.
  3. Will data be published as scheduled? The monthly estimates of price change will be published as scheduled. See the schedule of U.S. Import and Export Price Indexes release dates. While it is probable that estimates will be based on a smaller amount of collected prices than usual, procedures to calculate aggregate estimates can account for fewer prices and maintain reliability. Detailed price indexes may be suppressed for publication if insufficient prices are collected.
  4. Will estimates be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and response? The March 2020 estimates did not show impacts as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and emergency response efforts because the reference period for the data is the first week of the month. However, subsequent releases may be affected if emergency measures remain in place and respondents are not available to report data.
  5. Will BLS attempt to quantify the overall impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on estimates? The primary goal for the U.S. Import and Export Price Indexes is to provide accurate estimates of average price movement for imports to and exports from the United States. There is not a way to precisely quantify the impact of COVID-19 pandemic and response efforts on any price movement because the effects cannot be separated from other influences on the economy. Comparisons of price movement for a specific month against those of recent months may provide a general indication of the impacts. Locality of Origin Import Price Indexes and Locality of Destination Export Price Indexes may show an impact with specific trading partners. BLS also can provide information on overall program response rates compared with the period before the widespread impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and response efforts in the United States.

Last Modified Date: July 15, 2020