Redesigning the Consumer Price Index (CPI) Press Release Tables

The format of the tables contained in the CPI News Release will change beginning with the CPI News Release for March, 2012, which will be issued on Friday, April 13, 2012. News Release tables are currently available as part of the News Release pdf and html files, and independently in html format. The new tables will also be available in Excel format. In addition, the BLS will begin issuing monthly companion Excel files, which will contain additional index level and CPI-W information.

These tables were made available for public comment during October 2011. In response to the public comments, the BLS will issue Excel files each month, as companions to the News Release. There will be CPI-U and CPI-W files, and in addition to the data contained in the News Release tables, the Excel files will contain index values. Samples of the companion Excel files will be available with the February CPI News Release in March 2012. Samples of the new CPI press release tables are available.

In August 2009, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) restructured the text of the CPI press release to focus on the price movements of three broad expenditure categories, namely Food, Energy, and All items less food and energy. Table A within the CPI press release text was also updated in August 2009 to reflect this new structure. Before August 2009, the text of the CPI press release had focused on eight CPI ‘major groups’ (Food and beverages; Housing; Apparel; Transportation; Medical care; Recreation; Education and communication; and Other goods and services).

While the text of the CPI press release was restructured in 2009, seven additional CPI press release tables continued to be published using the eight major groups. BLS has redesigned these press release tables, to reflect the focus on Food, Energy, and All items less food and energy. Within these three broad categories, CPI item series will be further divided into commodities and services. The CPI News Release will contain these updated tables beginning with the March 2012 News Release, to be issued on Friday, April 13, 2012.

Beyond the redesign in the structure of the CPI press release tables, several other improvements to these tables have been made.

The new Table 1 gives a summary of the index series which typically contribute to changes in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U).

The new Table 2 will show the full publication stub using the new structure for the CPI-U, including 11 new items series that were created to augment the redesign in the publication structure. Table 3 will show aggregate item series (e.g., Transportation) that do not fall under the Food, Energy, and All items less food and energy structure.

Table 4 will show the All items indexes at the local, regional, and city-size class levels.

Table 5 will show the Chained Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (C-CPI-U), and presents a history of annual percentage changes in the C-CPI-U compared to the CPI-U.

Table 6 will focus on 1-month seasonally adjusted changes in the CPI-U, while table 7 will focus on 12-month not seasonally adjusted changes. Tables 6 and 7 will present three additional pieces of data to help users better interpret index changes. First, these tables will show the ‘effect’ each item has on the price change for All items. For example, if the effect of food is 0.4, and the index for All items increased 1.2 percent, it can be said that increases in food prices accounted for 0.4 / 1.2, or 33.3 percent, of the increase in overall prices for that period. Said another way, had food prices been unchanged, the All items index only would have increased 0.8 percent (or 1.2 percent for All items, minus the 0.4 effect for Food). Effects can be negative as well. For example, if the effect of food was a negative 0.1, and the All items index rose 0.5 percent, the All items index actually would have been 0.1 percent higher (or 0.6 percent) had food prices been unchanged.

Second, standard errors for percent changes will be shown on tables 6 and 7. Confidence intervals for statistics can be created using standard errors; e.g., roughly 95% confidence intervals can be constructed using two standard errors. For example, if an item increased 3.7 percent, and its standard error was 0.6 percent, the 95% confidence interval for that price change can be said to be 3.7 percent plus or minus two standard errors, or 3.7 percent plus or minus 1.2 percent.

Finally, each item series in tables 6 and 7 will show the last time that item had a price change as large (or as small) as the percent change published that period. For example, if bananas rose 3.7 percent, and that was its largest increase since November 2007, that would be noted in the new tables.

In addition, most of the existing tables show the ‘relative importance’, or weight, of each item category as of the previous December. The relative importance columns in the new tables will be improved in that they will be updated monthly to reflect the change in relative prices over time.

Finally, there will no longer be any press release tables that focus on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). That said, the CPI-W All items index level and percent changes will still be noted in the text of the press release, and a companion Excel file with CPI-W information will be available.

Sample files (using November 2011 data) are available:

Mock-up of CPI News Release Tables in PDF

Mock-up of CPI News Release Tables in XLS

Mock-up of CPI News Release Tables in HTML


Last Modified Date: January 19, 2012