The U.S. Import and U.S. Export Price Indexes measure the change over time in the prices of goods or services purchased from abroad by U.S. residents (imports) or sold to foreign buyers by U.S. residents (exports). The Import/Export Price Indexes, along with the Consumer Price Index and Producer Price Index, form the basis of three major Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) programs measuring the change in the prices of goods and services in the U.S. economy. Each of the three has been designated as a Principal Federal Economic Indicator.
Import items are classified by the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States Annotated (TSUSA). Import prices are based on U.S. dollar prices paid by the U.S. importer. Export items are classified by the Harmonized Schedule B classification system of the U.S. Bureau of the Census.
NOTE: Although import and export transaction prices are used to calculate the indexes, the International Price Program (IPP) does not publish price information or any information that might allow prices to be inferred.
The Import/Export Price Indexes are primarily used to deflate foreign trade statistics produced by the U.S. Government. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) calculated by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), is an example of a statistic that is deflated using the Import and Export Price Indexes. The Import/Export Price Indexes are also a valuable input into the processes of measuring inflation, formulating fiscal and monetary policy, forecasting future prices, conducting elasticity studies, measuring U.S. industrial competitiveness, analyzing exchange rates, negotiating trade contracts, analyzing import prices by locality of origin, analyzing export prices by locality of destination, and analyzing U.S. terms of trade with select trade partners.
All goods except for military goods, works of art, used items, charity donations, railroad equipment, items leased for less than a year, rebuilt and repaired items, and selected exports (custom-made capital equipment). Covered services are air freight and air passenger fares.
Import and export price indexes for goods are published using the following classification systems:
Items are classified, respectively, by end use for the Bureau of Economic Analysis System, by industry for the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), and by product category for the Harmonized System (HS). While classification by end use and product category are self-explanatory, a couple of notes are in order for classifying items by industry. In the NAICS tables, for both imports and exports, items are classified by output industry, not input industry. As an example, NAICS import index 326 (plastics and rubber products) would include outputs such as manufactured plastic rather than inputs such as petroleum.
Import price indexes are available by locality of origin for select countries, regions, and groupings. Quarterly data are available from December 1990 to June 1992 and monthly data from September 1992 on. Export price indexes are available by locality of destination for select countries, regions, and groupings. Monthly data are available from December 2017. Terms of trade indexes, which index the ratio of export price indexes to import price indexes for select countries, regions, and groupings are available monthly from December 2017.
Import and export service price indexes are classified using the following definitions: Balance of Payments (BOP) – represents transactions between U.S. and foreign residents – and International – represents transactions inbound to and outbound from the United States.
Indexes for import and export air passenger fares calculate changes in the average revenue received per passenger by foreign carriers from U.S. residents and by U.S. carriers from foreign residents, respectively. Data are obtained from an airline consulting service and report on tickets sold by travel agencies, travel websites, and directly by the airlines. Taxes and fees are included in both the import and export air passenger fares indexes. Import air passenger fares data have used the airline consulting service source since September 2008. Before April 2018, the export air passenger fares data were collected directly by BLS from U.S. airlines.
The air freight indexes are calculated from data collected directly from airlines. These data exclude mail and passenger baggage. The scope of the service being priced is the movement of freight from airport to airport only, and does not include any ground transportation or port service. The air freight indexes are presented using two definitions: balance of payments (which represents transactions between U.S. and foreign residents) and international (which represents transactions inbound to and outbound from the United States).
Import Price Indexes by Locality of Origin use prices that are a subset of the data collected for the import price indexes. The indexes are specific to a country, region, or grouping and, beginning with January 2002, are based on the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) covering goods-producing industries. Nonmanufactured goods are defined as NAICS 11 and 21, and manufactured goods are defined as NAICS 31-33.
Export Price Indexes by Locality of Destination use prices that are a subset of the data collected for the export price indexes. The indexes are specific to a country, region, or grouping and are based on the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) covering goods-producing industries. Nonmanufactured goods are defined as NAICS 11 and 21, and manufactured goods are defined as NAICS 31-33.
Terms of trade indexes measure the relative price of exports in terms of import prices for a specific country, region, or grouping. The indexes are calculated as one country, region, or grouping's all-export goods price index divided by the corresponding all-import goods price index on a scale of 100.
The International Price Program (IPP) selects sample establishments based upon their relative trade value in imports and exports during the course of a year. After an establishment is selected for inclusion, a BLS field economist visits the establishment to enlist cooperation and to select the exact items that will be priced on a monthly basis. All information provided by the establishment is protected under BLS confidentiality rules.
Sample establishments are asked to provide prices on a monthly basis, as close as possible to the first day of the reference month. Most prices are collected via a secure internet address. IPP Industry Analysts collect the remaining prices by telephone or by fax.
The majority of prices used in calculating import price indexes are quoted FOB (Free On Board) Foreign Port and the majority of prices used in calculating export price indexes are quoted FAS (Free Along Ship) U.S. Port; duty is not included. While the International Price Program prefers exit point price bases, point of origin or entry point price bases are used if they are the industry standard.
In certain situations, yes. In an effort to increase efficiency and reduce overall respondent burden, the Consumer Price Index Program, the Producer Price Index Program, and the International Price Program may share resources to collect pricing information from respondents that are selected for inclusion in multiple surveys. In these cases, prices for the same product or service may be used by more than one price program; however, each program would determine appropriate weighting according to its own established methodology. All information shared across programs is used for statistical purposes only and is protected under the BLS confidentiality pledge.
An import duty is a tax or tariff collected on imports, typically by a country's Customs agency. U.S import duties would be placed on imports coming into the United States whereas other countries' import duties would be placed on exports from the United States. The prices for the items used to calculate the Import/Export Price Indexes exclude duties. One of the primary purposes of the indexes is to deflate the foreign trade component of national accounts which specifically exclude taxes when measuring Gross Domestic Product (GDP) accounts.
The IPP attempts to hold the quality of items being priced constant so that the pure price change can be isolated from changes in prices brought about by alterations to the item. When an item price used in index calculation has a specification modification, the IPP adjusts that item's price to reflect any change in the quality of the item.
This means that when a sample item has a modification to one of its features and that modification is reflected in its price, a "link" price is created in order to compare the item's price in the period with the modification to its price in the period before the modification. Creating an adjusted or link price is often referred to as a quality adjustment. A requirement for creating a link price is that the item must remain unchanged in its class, general function, or purpose; otherwise, the price series is restarted.
Examples where an item has had a change in one of its features but the nature of the item and the factors determining price remain the same are: (1) A woman's short-sleeved cotton blouse that is now long sleeved, (2) an uncoated aspirin that is now coated for easier swallowing, and (3) a car with only a driver's side airbag that now has driver's and passenger's side airbags. Link prices are also set for changes in unit of sale specification (e.g. change from price per item to price per dozen), for non-market discounts, and for changes in price basis (see question 5).
To calculate a valid link price, the amount of the price change (a positive or negative amount) associated with the new or different feature must be quantified. For example, a car that sold for $10,000 in September is sold for $11,000 in October. If $400 of the increase is due to an improved paint job, but the remaining $600 is the manufacturer's annual market increase, then the link price is $10,600.
When a link price is set, the item's price series is continued. If information is not available to quantify a change in the item description, then a link price cannot be calculated and a replacement, if available, is required. With a replacement, the old item's price series ends and the new item's price series begins with a more accurate starting point.
The Import/Export Price Indexes are very sensitive to the changing composition of world trade. For this reason, the IPP reweights its published index aggregation structures for goods every year with a two year lag in the weights. This means that relative importance data in 2023 goods indexes are based on 2021 trade values. The IPP also resamples each half of the import/export universe every other year. The aggregation structure below the published level incorporates the use of sampling weights in the estimator. Sampling weights generally change every two years when a new sample is drawn for a given product area.
The formula used to calculate the Import/Export Price Indexes is a modified form of the Laspeyres index. A Laspeyres index uses fixed base period quantities to aggregate prices. This means that the quality of goods and services is fixed; new goods do not appear, and the prices of goods that disappear must be observable. Because these implications are not consistent with the actual workings of the economy, adjustments must be made to the index.
NOTE: All Import/Export Price Index data are not seasonally adjusted.
For more information, see the BLS Handbook of Methods.
An index is a tool that simplifies the measurement of movements in a numerical series. Movements are measured with respect to the base period when the index is set at 100. Currently, most Import/Export Price Indexes have an index base of 2000=100 and price changes are measured in relation to that figure. For example, an October 2022 Import Price index of 110.0 for consumer goods indicates that there has been a 10-percent increase in price since 2000. Similarly, an October 2022 Import Price Index of 36.7 for computers means that there has been a 63.3-percent decrease in price since 2000.
While movements between two dates can be expressed as index point changes, it is more useful to express the movements as percent changes. As the example below indicates, the Export Price Index for corn was 262.1 in October 2021 and 331.8 in October 2022, an index point increase of 69.7. Using the formula shown, it is determined that this index point increase represents a 26.6-percent price increase from October 2021 to October 2022.
Index Point Change
|Export Price Index 10/22||331.8|
|Less previous index 10/21||262.1|
|Equals index point change||69.7|
Index Percent Change
|Index point change||69.7|
|Divided by the previous index||262.1|
|Result multiplied by 100||0.266 x 100|
|Equals percent change||26.6|
A relative importance is a specific index's price-updated value share (expressed as a percentage) of overall imports or exports at a specific point in time. Relative importance values are affected by the trade weights at the point indexes are reweighted and index changes relative to other indexes since the reweight point. If an index is rising in value relative to other indexes over time, the relative importance will increase as well.
Index values are rounded to the tenth decimal place after being calculated. All percent changes are then derived from the rounded index values and subsequently rounded to the tenth decimal place.
The IPP publishes the Import/Export Price Indexes monthly. The information is released at 8:30 AM Eastern Time, usually during the second week following the reference month. Click on the link below to see the current list of release dates.
Import/Export Price Index Release Dates
The monthly release includes first-published data for the reference month, as well as revised data from the previous three months. For example, the April "U.S. Import and Export Price Indexes," released in May, contains first-published data for April and previously-published indexes for January, February, and March that were subject to revision.
Although import and export transaction prices are used to calculate the Import/Export Price Indexes, the IPP does not publish price information. For this reason, the Import/Export Price Indexes cannot be used to measure differences in price levels among different products and services or among different localities of origin. A higher index number for locality A (or product X) does not necessarily mean that prices are higher than for locality B (or product Y) with a lower index number. It only means that prices have risen faster for locality A (or product X) since the reference period.
Because the Import/Export Price Indexes are primarily used as deflators, care must be exercised when using these data for other purposes. For example, import price data exclude charges for duties.
About 6 percent of imports and exports currently surveyed are priced in foreign currencies. The IPP uses an exchange rate factor that is an average for the month prior to the pricing month. All prices are converted to U.S. dollars, considering the Import/Export Price Indexes are calculated in U.S. dollar terms.
The Department of State publishes a quarterly report containing indexes of living costs abroad, quarters allowances, hardship differentials, and danger pay allowances. This information is compiled by the Office of Allowances for use in establishing allowances to compensate U.S. Government civilian employees for costs and hardships related to assignments abroad. More information is available from the Department of State, (202) 663-1121.
Comparative price level and purchasing power parity information is available from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), (202) 785-6323.
The Center for International Data at the University of California, Davis, compiles the Penn World Tables which provide purchasing power parity and national income accounts converted to international prices for 182 countries for some or all of the years 1950–2014.
For specific details about how to obtain additional information, please see the BLS Handbook of Methods.
Last Modified Date: August 22, 2023