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

The Producer Price Index (PPI) is a measure of the average change over time in the prices domestic producers receive for the sale of their products. PPI estimates for April 2020 were published on May 13, 2020. The pricing date was Tuesday, April 13, 2020, which means that most producers, but not all, provided prices they received on that date. The summary statistics in tables 1, 2, and 3 indicate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the PPI data collection, index estimation, and the BLS ability to publish indexes was minor for the release of preliminary April data. No changes in estimation procedures were necessary.

Table 1 provides the April 2020 response rate by industry sector, along with comparison periods of March 2020, April 2019, and a 12-month average for April 2019 to March 2020. The April 2020 response rate for items requested shows a similar level of response for the vast majority of industry sectors. Only the Entertainment, Accommodation, and Food Services sector shows a noticeable yet moderate decline.

It is important to note that typically the PPI survey’s monthly price collection response rate reaches 76 percent by the end of its 4-month index revision period. All PPI indexes are recalculated, 4 months after publication of preliminary data. Thus, April indexes may be revised when BLS publishes the PPI for August on September 10, 2020. All summary statistics in the tables below reflect comparisons to preliminary PPI data.

Table 1. Comparative response rates percentages for the release of preliminary PPI industry indexes
Industry Sectors April 2020 March 2020 April 2019 12-month average,
April 2019 to March 2020

All Industrial Sectors

76% 73% 73% 73%

Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting

44 49 43 48

Mining, Utilities, and Construction

71 69 66 66

Manufacturing

78 75 74 74

Wholesale Trade

65 60 71 65

Retail Trade

74 75 76 75

Transportation and Warehousing

81 81 80 80

Finance, Real Estate, and Other Information Services

79 77 77 79

Health Care Services

62 54 60 59

Entertainment, Accommodation, and Food Services

47 52 66 65

Other Services, Except Public Administration

96 84 80 80

When a respondent does not provide a price for an item, BLS employs an imputation method of replacing that missing price with a statistically estimated value. The first row of table 2 indicates that the April 2020 item imputation rate of 36 percent is on par with the comparison periods.

BLS calculates over 10,000 PPIs for individual products and groups of products for publication during the release of preliminary data. The second row of table 2 shows the April 2020 publication rate of 89 percent is in line with the comparison periods. BLS suppresses indexes when they fail to meet publication criteria. Because of additional collection efforts and the addition of late-arriving data, these suppressed indexes often will meet publication criteria at the end of the 4-month index revision period, at which time they are published. Further illustrating the nominal impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the third row of table 2 shows the percent of industry indexes that BLS was unable to calculate because BLS did not received any prices. This proportion of not calculated indexes is similar to the normal result.

Table 2. Comparative summary percentages for the release of preliminary PPI data
Measure April 2020 March 2020 April 2019 12-month average,
April 2019 to March 2020

Item imputation rate

36% 40% 38% 39%

Percent of indexes (intended to publish) that were actually published

89 89 90 89

Percent of PPI industry indexes not calculated

7 7 6 6

Table 3 takes a closer look at the not calculated PPI indexes by industry and shows that, across all industry sectors, there is no discernable difference between April’s result when compared with earlier periods.

Table 3. Comparative percent of preliminary PPI industry indexes not calculated
Industry Sectors April 2020 March 2020 April 2019 12-month average,
April 2019 to March 2020

All Industrial Sectors

7% 7% 6% 6%

Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing and Hunting

3 3 3 3

Mining, Utilities, and Construction

14 14 13 13

Manufacturing

7 7 7 7

Wholesale Trade

4 4 4 4

Retail Trade

0 0 0 0

Transportation and Warehousing

0 0 0 0

Finance, Real Estate, and Other Information Services

1 1 1 1

Health Care Services

9 9 9 10

Entertainment, Accommodation, and Food Services

0 0 0 0

Other Services, Except Public Administration

0 0 0 0

Note: BLS collects price data to support several thousand industry PPIs, from lower-level industry product lines up to 2-digit industry sectors. All of the noncalculating indexes in table 3 are below the industry (6-digit) level and reflect industry product lines. BLS calculates some detailed, lower-level PPI indexes that are not intended to meet publication criteria but are necessary for weighting and imputation purposes.

Last Modified Date: May 13, 2020