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Impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on the Producer Price Index data for May 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 May 2020 were published on June 11, 2020. The pricing date was Tuesday, May 12, 2020, which means that most producers, but not all, provided prices they received on that date. The summary statistics in tables 1, 2, 3 and 4 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 May data. No changes in estimation procedures were necessary.

This page provides further information on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic for the May 2020 Producer Price Indexes news release.

Collection mode

The PPI collects nearly all of its repricing data via web collection. There were no changes to collection mode in response to the pandemic.

Response rates

Table 1 provides the May 2020 response rate by industry sector, along with comparison periods of April 2020, May 2019, and a 12-month average for March 2019 to February 2020. The May 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 decline.
 
It is important to note that typically, the PPI survey’s monthly price collection response rate averages 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, May indexes may be revised when BLS publishes the PPI for September on October 14, 2020. All summary statistics in the tables below reflect comparisons to PPI preliminary data.

Table 1. Comparative response rates percentages for the release of PPI preliminary industry indexes
Industry sector 12-month average, March 2019 to February 2020 May 2019 April 2020 May 2020 Percentage point change from April 2020 to May 2020

All industrial sectors

69 72 76 72 -4

Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting

47 45 44 44 0

Mining, utilities, and construction

66 66 71 70 -1

Manufacturing

74 73 78 73 0

Wholesale trade

62 75 65 61 -4

Retail trade

75 76 74 75 +1

Transportation and warehousing

80 79 81 83 +2

Finance, real estate, and other information services

79 78 79 78 -1

Health care services

59 58 62 60 -2

Entertainment, accommodation and food services

66 65 47 38 -12

Other services, except public administration

80 93 96 95 -1

Imputation

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. Missing prices are imputed by the prices of similar items that have been collected. Essentially, the price movement of items that are not collected are estimated to be the same as those in their general index category. Table 2 indicates that the May 2020 item imputation rate of 40 percent is on par with the comparison periods.

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

Item imputation rate

39 41 36 40 +4

Cell, series, index, or observation suppression

BLS calculates over 10,000 PPIs for individual products and groups of products for publication during the release of preliminary data. The first row of Table 3 shows the May 2020 publication rate of 89 percent is consistent with the comparison periods. BLS suppresses indexes when they fail to meet publication criteria. Because of additional collection efforts along with 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. (Upon request, BLS will provide a list of indexes that did not meet publication criteria for the release of preliminary PPI data. Please email requests to ppi-info@bls.gov.)

Further illustrating the nominal impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the second row of Table 3 shows the percent of industry indexes that BLS was unable to calculate because BLS did not receive any prices for that index. This proportion of not calculated indexes is similar to the normal result.

Table 3. Comparative summary percentages for the release of preliminary PPI data
Measure 12-month average, March 2019 to February 2020 May 2019 April 2020 May 2020 Percentage point change from April 2020 to May 2020

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

89 89 89 89 0

Percent of PPI industry indexes not calculated

6 6 7 7 0

Table 4 takes a closer look at the not calculated PPI indexes by industry and reflects that across all industry sectors there is no discernable difference between May’s result when compared with earlier periods.

Table 4. Comparative percent of PPI preliminary industry indexes not calculated
Industry sector 12-month average, March 2019 to February 2020 May 2019 April 2020 May 2020 Percentage point change from April 2020 to May 2020

All industrial sectors

6 6 7 7 0

Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting

3 3 3 3 0

Mining, utilities, and construction

13 13 14 15 +1

Manufacturing

7 7 7 7 0

Wholesale trade

4 4 4 4 0

Retail trade

0 0 0 0 0

Transportation and warehousing

0 0 0 1 +1

Finance, real estate, and other information services

1 1 1 1 0

Health care services

10 9 9 9 0

Entertainment, accommodation and food services

0 0 0 0 0

Other services, except public administration

0 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 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: June 11, 2020