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Impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the Import and Export Price Index data for May 2020

This page provides further information on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic for the May 2020 U.S. Import and Export Price Indexes.

Collection

The Import/Export Price program collects nearly all of its data via web collection. There were no changes to collection made in response to the pandemic.

Response Rates

The impact of the current pandemic on Import and Export Price Index data was relatively minor for May 2020 data published on June 12, 2020. The response rates for the current month’s import prices and export prices are shown in tables 1 and 2 below. In each case, the response rates for the current month’s indexes are compared to the response rates from the previous month, the same month a year ago, and the average response rates for the 12-month period ended February 2020. In all cases, the response rate is the percent of prices requested from respondents that were collected for the initial publication of a given month. Note that the Import and Export Price Indexes are revised in each of the 3 months after initial publication and that response rates improve as more data are subsequently collected.

Table 1. U.S. Import Price Indexes response rates
Imports March 2019–February 2020 average May 2019 April 2020 May 2020 Percentage point difference, May 2020 and April 2020 Percentage point difference, May 2020 and May 2019 Percentage point difference, May 2020 and average for March 2019–February 2020

All imports

74.4 74.1 68.1 70.3 2.2 -3.8 -4.1

Food, feeds, and beverages

68.6 71.0 66.0 65.1 -0.9 -5.9 -3.5

Industrial supplies and materials

74.6 74.5 69.6 69.5 -0.1 -5.0 -5.1

Capital goods

75.8 75.6 69.8 72.1 2.3 -3.5 -3.7

Automotive vehicles

78.2 78.4 68.6 75.0 6.4 -3.4 -3.2

Consumer goods

73.8 72.2 65.8 69.1 3.3 -3.1 -4.7

Response rates for May 2020 import prices were 70.3 percent, 3.8 percentage points lower than the same period in 2019. Response rates varied by major end use category, ranging from 65.1 percent for foods, feeds, and beverages to 75.0 percent for automotive vehicles. Among the major import groupings, response rates for foods, feeds, and beverages showed the greatest difference from May 2019 to May 2020. Response rates for May 2020 import prices were 2.2 percentage points higher than response rates at the same point in April 2020. 

Table 2. U.S. Export Price Indexes response rates
Exports March 2019–February 2020 average May 2019 April 2020 May 2020 Percentage point difference, May 2020 and April 2020 Percentage point difference, May 2020 and May 2019 Percentage point difference, May 2020 and average for March 2019–February 2020

All Exports

75.7 76.6 71.5 71.9 0.4 -4.7 -3.8

Food, feeds, and beverages

78.3 79.7 72.3 72.9 0.6 -6.8 -5.4

Industrial supplies and materials

74.5 75.7 69.3 69.2 -0.1 -6.5 -5.3

Capital goods

73.8 75.3 70.9 71.4 0.5 -3.9 -2.4

Automotive vehicles

77.8 79.0 68.7 72.5 3.8 -6.5 -5.3

Consumer goods

81.0 78.6 79.2 77.7 -1.5 -0.9 -3.3

Response rates for May 2020 export prices were 71.9 percent, 4.7 percentage points lower than the same period in 2019. Response rates varied by major end-use category, ranging from 69.2 percent for industrial supplies and materials to 77.7 percent for consumer goods. Among the major export groupings, response rates for foods, feeds, and beverages showed the greatest difference from May 2019 to May 2020. Response rates for May 2020 export prices were 0.4 percentage points higher than response rates at the same point in April 2020. 

The response rates here differ from those in the BLS response rate report maintained by the Office of Survey Methods Research (OSMR). The OSMR response rates include services data which are not used to derive the top level import and export price indexes. 

Index Suppression

Publication quality is evaluated monthly and annually. Each month, the number of respondents contacted and prices requested varies. These changes occur as the market basket is updated monthly to add new representative items and exclude items no longer traded and as respondents establish different schedules to report price changes. Information on the data collection process provides metrics to evaluate the number and representative share of prices that support index quality. Published indexes ensure confidentiality of respondents, sample representativeness, and robustness of coverage for items and companies. 

The top-level price indexes continue to be representative of total trade. Detailed indexes face greater likelihood of suppression. If the number of prices collected is insufficient to support index publication, the index’s publication is suppressed for the month(s) that insufficient price data are collected. 

A list of indexes published prior to the COVID-19 pandemic that were inadequate for publication in May 2020 is shown in table 3 below. There were 6 indexes where the index value and percent changes needed to be suppressed. The indexes are subject to revision and remain published for February, March, and April.

Table 3. List of indexes inadequate for publication for May 2020
LABSTAT ID Index

BEA End Use Classification System

EIUIQ12760

Export Mineral Supplies – Manufactured

North American Industry Classification System

EIUIZ333242

Import Semiconductor Machinery Manufacturing

Imports by Locality of Origin

EIUCOLATZ3342

Import Communications equipment manufacturing from Latin America

EIUCOMEXZ3342

Import Communications equipment manufacturing from Mexico

EIUCOJPNZ336

Import Transportation Equipment Manufacturing from Japan

EIUCOJPNZ3361

Import Motor Vehicle Manufacturing from Japan

Changes to Methods

There were no changes to estimation methodology for the May release of U.S. Import and Export Price Indexes.

Last Modified Date: June 12, 2020