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Economic News Release
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CPI CPI Program Links

Consumer Price Index Summary



 Transmission of material in this release is embargoed until                                        
 8:30 a.m. (ET) October 13, 2020                USDL-20-1925

 Technical information: (202) 691-7000  •  cpi_info@bls.gov  •  www.bls.gov/cpi
 Media Contact:         (202) 691-5902  •  PressOffice@bls.gov 

 CONSUMER PRICE INDEX – SEPTEMBER 2020

 The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.2 percent 
 in September on a seasonally adjusted basis after rising 0.4 percent in August, 
 the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, 
 the all items index increased 1.4 percent before seasonal adjustment.

 The index for used cars and trucks continued to rise sharply and accounted for 
 most of the monthly increase in the seasonally adjusted all items index. The 
 food index was unchanged, with an increase in the food away from home index 
 offsetting a decline in the food at home index. The energy index rose 0.8 
 percent in September as the index for natural gas increased 4.2 percent. 

 The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.2 percent in September 
 after larger increases in July and August. The index for used cars and trucks 
 rose 6.7 percent in September, its largest monthly increase since February 1969. 
 The indexes for shelter, new vehicles, and recreation also increased in September. 
 The indexes for motor vehicle insurance, airline fares, and apparel were among 
 those to decline over the month.

 The all items index rose 1.4 percent for the 12 months ending September, a 
 slightly larger increase than the 1.3-percent rise for the 12-month period 
 ending August. The index for all items less food and energy rose 1.7 percent 
 over the last 12 months, the same increase as the period ending August. 
 The food index increased 3.9 percent over the last 12 months, while the energy 
 index declined 7.7 percent.


 Table A. Percent changes in CPI for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U): U.S. city
 average

                                  Seasonally adjusted changes from
                                          preceding month
                                                                          Un-
                                                                       adjusted
                                                                        12-mos.
                              Mar.  Apr.  May   June  July  Aug.  Sep.   ended
                              2020  2020  2020  2020  2020  2020  2020   Sep.
                                                                         2020

 All items..................   -.4   -.8   -.1    .6    .6    .4    .2      1.4
  Food......................    .3   1.5    .7    .6   -.4    .1    .0      3.9
   Food at home.............    .5   2.6   1.0    .7  -1.1   -.1   -.4      4.1
   Food away from home (1)..    .2    .1    .4    .5    .5    .3    .6      3.8
  Energy....................  -5.8 -10.1  -1.8   5.1   2.5    .9    .8     -7.7
   Energy commodities....... -10.4 -20.0  -3.5  11.7   5.3   2.0   -.1    -15.5
    Gasoline (all types).... -10.5 -20.6  -3.5  12.3   5.6   2.0    .1    -15.4
    Fuel oil................ -13.7 -15.6  -6.3  10.2   4.3   3.9  -5.3    -27.2
   Energy services..........   -.5    .1   -.5   -.2    .0   -.2   1.6      1.4
    Electricity.............   -.2    .1   -.8   -.3    .3   -.2    .9       .7
    Utility (piped) gas
       service..............  -1.4    .2    .8    .0  -1.0   -.2   4.2      3.8
  All items less food and
     energy.................   -.1   -.4   -.1    .2    .6    .4    .2      1.7
   Commodities less food and
      energy commodities....   -.3   -.7   -.2    .2    .7   1.0    .8      1.0
    New vehicles............   -.4    .0    .3    .0    .8    .0    .3      1.0
    Used cars and trucks....    .8   -.4   -.4  -1.2   2.3   5.4   6.7     10.3
    Apparel.................  -2.0  -4.7  -2.3   1.7   1.1    .6   -.5     -6.0
    Medical care commodities    .0   -.1    .1    .2    .0   -.1    .0       .9
   Services less energy
      services..............    .0   -.4    .0    .3    .6    .2    .0      1.9
    Shelter.................    .0    .0    .2    .1    .2    .1    .1      2.0
    Transportation services   -1.9  -4.7  -3.6   2.1   3.6    .0   -.9     -5.1
    Medical care services...    .5    .5    .6    .5    .5    .1    .0      4.9

   1 Not seasonally adjusted.


 Food

 The food index was unchanged in September after rising 0.1 percent in August. 
 The index for food at home fell 0.4 percent in September as five of the six major 
 grocery store food group indexes declined. The index for nonalcoholic beverages 
 fell 0.8 percent, its largest monthly decline since December 2010. The index 
 for other food at home declined 0.6 percent in September after rising 0.5 percent 
 in August. The index for dairy and related products declined 0.5 percent in 
 September after rising 1.5 percent in August. 

 The index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs fell 0.4 percent in September, its 
 third consecutive monthly decline. The index for fruits and vegetables also 
 declined 0.4 percent in September as the index for fresh fruits fell 1.3 percent. 
 The index for cereals and bakery products was unchanged in September, the only 
 major grocery store food group index not to decline. 
 
 The index for food away from home continued to rise, increasing 0.6 percent in 
 September. The index for limited service meals rose 0.9 percent in September, 
 the largest increase in the history of the index, which dates to 1997. The index 
 for full service meals rose 0.3 percent in September.

 Despite the September decline, the food at home index increased 4.1 percent over 
 the last 12 months. All six major grocery store food group indexes rose over that 
 span, with increases ranging from 2.6 percent (cereals and bakery products) to 
 6.3 percent (meats, poultry, fish, and eggs). The index for food away from home 
 rose 3.8 percent over the last year. The index for limited service meals increased 
 5.5 percent and the index for full service meals rose 2.8 percent over the last 
 12 months.
 
 Energy
 
 The energy index rose 0.8 percent in September, its fourth consecutive monthly 
 increase. However, unlike previous months, the index for natural gas was the 
 largest contributor to the monthly increase, rising 4.2 percent, its largest 
 monthly increase since December 2018. The electricity index also rose in 
 September, increasing 0.9 percent, its largest monthly advance since October 
 2018. The gasoline index increased slightly in September, advancing 0.1 percent. 
 (Before seasonal adjustment, gasoline prices rose 0.7 percent in September.) 

 The energy index fell 7.7 percent over the past 12 months with its component 
 indexes mixed. The gasoline index decreased 15.4 percent and the fuel oil index 
 fell 27.2 percent. In contrast, energy service indexes rose, with the index for 
 natural gas increasing 3.8 percent and the index for electricity advancing 0.7 
 percent. 
 
 All items less food and energy
 
 The index for all items less food and energy increased 0.2 percent in September. 
 As was the case last month, the index for used cars and trucks was the dominant 
 factor; it rose 6.7 percent in September following a 5.4-percent increase in 
 August. The used cars and trucks index accounted for more than 100 percent of 
 the monthly increase in the index for all items less food and energy.
 
 The shelter index rose 0.1 percent in September, with the indexes for rent and 
 owners’ equivalent rent both increasing 0.1 percent; these were the same increases 
 as in August. The index for new vehicles increased 0.3 percent in September after 
 being unchanged in August. The recreation index rose 0.2 percent in September 
 after rising 0.7 percent in August. The medical care index was unchanged in 
 September with its components mixed; the hospital services index rose 0.6 percent, 
 while the physicians’ services index declined 0.3 percent and the prescription 
 drugs index fell 0.1 percent. 
 
 The index for motor vehicle insurance declined in September, falling 3.5 percent. 
 The index for airline fares fell 2.0 percent in September after rising in each 
 of the previous 3 months. The apparel index also turned down in September, falling 
 0.5 percent after rising the last 3 months. The education index fell 0.3 percent 
 in September, the same decline as in August. The index for household furnishings 
 and operations fell slightly in September, declining 0.1 percent after rising 0.9 
 percent in August. The indexes for communication and for alcoholic beverages also 
 declined in September.  
 
 The index for all items less food and energy rose 1.7 percent over the past 12 
 months. The shelter index rose 2.0 percent over the last 12 months; this was its 
 smallest 12-month increase since the period ending February 2012. The medical care 
 index increased 4.2 percent over the last 12 months. The index for used cars and 
 trucks rose 10.3 percent over the last 12 months, its largest 12-month increase 
 since the period ending September 2010. In contrast, the indexes for apparel, 
 airline fares, and motor vehicle insurance all declined over the past 12 months. 
 
 Not seasonally adjusted CPI measures
 
 The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 1.4 percent 
 over the last 12 months to an index level of 260.280 (1982-84=100). For the month, 
 the index rose 0.1 percent prior to seasonal adjustment.  
 
 The Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) 
 increased 1.5 percent over the last 12 months to an index level of 254.004 
 (1982-84=100). For the month, the index rose 0.2 percent prior to seasonal 
 adjustment.  
 
 The Chained Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (C-CPI-U) increased 
 1.1 percent over the last 12 months. For the month, the index increased 0.2 
 percent on a not seasonally adjusted basis. Please note that the indexes for 
 the past 10 to 12 months are subject to revision. 
 
 _______________
 
 The Consumer Price Index for October 2020 is scheduled to be released on Thursday, 
 November 12, 2020 at 8:30 a.m. (ET).
 
 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic Impact on September 2020 Consumer Price Index Data

 Data collection by personal visit for the Consumer Price Index (CPI) program has been suspended
 since March 16, 2020. When possible, data normally collected by personal visit were collected either
 online or by phone. Additionally, data collection in September was affected by the temporary closing or
 limited operations of certain types of establishments. These factors resulted in an increase in the
 number of prices considered temporarily unavailable and imputed. While the CPI program attempted to
 collect as much data as possible, many indexes are based on smaller amounts of collected prices
 than usual, and a small number of indexes that are normally published were not published this month.
 Additional information is available at
 www.bls.gov/covid19/effects-of-covid-19-pandemic-on-consumer-price-index.htm.
 
 ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


 Technical Note

 Brief Explanation of the CPI

 The Consumer Price Index (CPI) measures the change in prices paid by consumers 
 for goods and services. The CPI reflects spending patterns for each of two 
 population groups: all urban consumers and urban wage earners and clerical 
 workers. The all urban consumer group represents about 93 percent of the total U.S. 
 population. It is based on the expenditures of almost all residents of urban or 
 metropolitan areas, including professionals, the self-employed, the poor, the 
 unemployed, and retired people, as well as urban wage earners and clerical workers. 
 Not included in the CPI are the spending patterns of people living in rural 
 nonmetropolitan areas, farming families, people in the Armed Forces, and those 
 in institutions, such as prisons and mental hospitals. Consumer inflation for all 
 urban consumers is measured by two indexes, namely, the Consumer Price Index for 
 All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) and the Chained Consumer Price Index for All Urban 
 Consumers (C-CPI-U). 
 
 The Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) is 
 based on the expenditures of households included in the CPI-U definition that meet 
 two requirements: more than one-half of the household's income must come from 
 clerical or wage occupations, and at least one of the household's earners must have 
 been employed for at least 37 weeks during the previous 12 months. The CPI-W 
 population represents about 29 percent of the total U.S. population and is a subset 
 of the CPI-U population.
 
 The CPIs are based on prices of food, clothing, shelter, fuels, transportation, 
 doctors’ and dentists’ services, drugs, and other goods and services that people 
 buy for day-to-day living. Prices are collected each month in 75 urban areas across 
 the country from about 6,000 housing units and approximately 22,000 retail 
 establishments (department stores, supermarkets, hospitals, filling stations, and 
 other types of stores and service establishments). All taxes directly associated 
 with the purchase and use of items are included in the index. Prices of fuels and a 
 few other items are obtained every month in all 75 locations. Prices of most other 
 commodities and services are collected every month in the three largest geographic 
 areas and every other month in other areas. Prices of most goods and services are 
 obtained by personal visits or telephone calls by the Bureau’s trained 
 representatives.
 
 In calculating the index, price changes for the various items in each location are 
 aggregated using weights, which represent their importance in the spending of the 
 appropriate population group. Local data are then combined to obtain a U.S. city 
 average. For the CPI-U and CPI-W, separate indexes are also published by size of city, 
 by region of the country, for cross-classifications of regions and population-size 
 classes, and for 23 selected local areas. Area indexes do not measure differences in 
 the level of prices among cities; they only measure the average change in prices for 
 each area since the base period. For the C-CPI-U, data are issued only at the national 
 level. The CPI-U and CPI-W are considered final when released, but the C-CPI-U is 
 issued in preliminary form and subject to three subsequent quarterly revisions. 
 
 The index measures price change from a designed reference date. For most of the CPI-U 
 and the CPI-W, the reference base is 1982-84 equals 100. The reference base for the 
 C-CPI-U is December 1999 equals 100.  An increase of 7 percent from the reference base, 
 for example, is shown as 107.000. Alternatively, that relationship can also be expressed 
 as the price of a base period market basket of goods and services rising from $100 
 to $107. 
 
 Sampling Error in the CPI
 
 The CPI is a statistical estimate that is subject to sampling error because it is based 
 upon a sample of retail prices and not the complete universe of all prices. BLS 
 calculates and publishes estimates of the 1-month, 2-month, 6-month, and 12-month percent 
 change standard errors annually for the CPI-U. These standard error estimates can be used 
 to construct confidence intervals for hypothesis testing. For example, the estimated 
 standard error of the 1-month percent change is 0.03 percent for the U.S. all items CPI. 
 This means that if we repeatedly sample from the universe of all retail prices using the 
 same methodology, and estimate a percentage change for each sample, then 95 percent of 
 these estimates will be within 0.06 percent of the 1-month percentage change based on 
 all retail prices. For example, for a 1-month change of 0.2 percent in the all items 
 CPI-U, we are 95 percent confident that the actual percent change based on all retail 
 prices would fall between 0.14 and 0.26 percent. For the latest data, including 
 information on how to use the estimates of standard error, see 
 https://www.bls.gov/cpi/tables/variance-estimates/home.htm. 

 Calculating Index Changes

 Movements of the indexes from 1 month to another are usually expressed as percent changes 
 rather than changes in index points, because index point changes are affected by the 
 level of the index in relation to its base period, while percent changes are not. 
 
 The following table shows an example of using index values to calculate percent
 changes:
   
                                 Item A                  Item B                      Item C
 Year I                         112.500                 225.000                     110.000
 Year II                        121.500                 243.000                     128.000
 Change in index points         9.000                   18.000                      18.000
 Percent change                 9.0/112.500 x 100 = 8.0  18.0/225.000 x 100 = 8.0   18.0/110.000 x 100 = 16.4
 
 Use of Seasonally Adjusted and Unadjusted Data

 The Consumer Price Index (CPI) produces both unadjusted and seasonally adjusted data. 
 Seasonally adjusted data are computed using seasonal factors derived by the X-13ARIMA-
 SEATS seasonal adjustment method. These factors are updated each February, and the new 
 factors are used to revise the previous 5 years of seasonally adjusted data. The 
 factors are available at www.bls.gov/cpi/tables/seasonal-adjustment/seasonal-factors-2020.pdf. 
 For more information on data revision scheduling, please see the Factsheet on Seasonal 
 Adjustment at www.bls.gov/cpi/seasonal-adjustment/questions-and-answers.htm and the 
 Timeline of Seasonal Adjustment Methodological Changes at 
 www.bls.gov/cpi/seasonal-adjustment/timeline-seasonal-adjustment-methodology-changes.htm. 

 For analyzing short-term price trends in the economy, seasonally adjusted changes are 
 usually preferred since they eliminate the effect of changes that normally occur at the 
 same time and in about the same magnitude every year—such as price movements resulting 
 from weather events, production cycles, model changeovers, holidays, and sales. This 
 allows data users to focus on changes that are not typical for the time of year. The 
 unadjusted data are of primary interest to consumers concerned about the prices they 
 actually pay. Unadjusted data are also used extensively for escalation purposes. Many 
 collective bargaining contract agreements and pension plans, for example, tie compensation 
 changes to the Consumer Price Index before adjustment for seasonal variation. BLS advises 
 against the use of seasonally adjusted data in escalation agreements because seasonally 
 adjusted series are revised annually.

 Intervention Analysis

 The Bureau of Labor Statistics uses intervention analysis seasonal adjustment for some CPI 
 series. Sometimes extreme values or sharp movements can distort the underlying seasonal 
 pattern of price change. Intervention analysis seasonal adjustment is a process by which 
 the distortions caused by such unusual events are estimated and removed from the data 
 prior to calculation of seasonal factors. The resulting seasonal factors, which more 
 accurately represent the seasonal pattern, are then applied to the unadjusted data. 
 
 For example, this procedure was used for the motor fuel series to offset the effects of 
 the 2009 return to normal pricing after the worldwide economic downturn in 2008. Retaining 
 this outlier data during seasonal factor calculation would distort the computation of the 
 seasonal portion of the time series data for motor fuel, so it was estimated and removed 
 from the data prior to seasonal adjustment. Following that, seasonal factors were 
 calculated based on this “prior adjusted” data. These seasonal factors represent a clearer 
 picture of the seasonal pattern in the data. The last step is for motor fuel seasonal 
 factors to be applied to the unadjusted data.
 
 For the seasonal factors introduced for January 2020, BLS adjusted 53 series using intervention 
 analysis seasonal adjustment, including selected food and beverage items, motor fuels, 
 electricity, and vehicles. 
 
 Revision of Seasonally Adjusted Indexes
 
 Seasonally adjusted data, including the U.S. city average all items index levels, are subject 
 to revision for up to 5 years after their original release. Every year, economists in the CPI 
 calculate new seasonal factors for seasonally adjusted series and apply them to the last 5 years 
 of data. Seasonally adjusted indexes beyond the last 5 years of data are considered to be final 
 and not subject to revision. For January 2020, revised seasonal factors and seasonally adjusted 
 indexes for 2015 to 2019 were calculated and published. For series which are directly adjusted 
 using the Census X-13ARIMA-SEATS seasonal adjustment software, the seasonal factors for 2019 
 will be applied to data for 2020 to produce the seasonally adjusted 2020 indexes. Series which 
 are indirectly seasonally adjusted by summing seasonally adjusted component series have seasonal 
 factors which are derived and are therefore not available in advance. 
 
 Determining Seasonal Status
 
 Each year the seasonal status of every series is reevaluated based upon certain statistical 
 criteria. Using these criteria, BLS economists determine whether a series should change its 
 status from "not seasonally adjusted" to "seasonally adjusted", or vice versa. If any of the 
 81 components of the U.S. city average all items index change their seasonal adjustment status 
 from seasonally adjusted to not seasonally adjusted, not seasonally adjusted data will be used 
 in the aggregation of the dependent series for the last 5 years, but the seasonally adjusted 
 indexes before that period will not be changed. Twenty-eight of the 81 components of the U.S. 
 city average all items index are not seasonally adjusted for 2020.
 
 Contact Information
 
 For additional information about the CPI visit www.bls.gov/cpi or contact the CPI Information 
 and Analysis Section at 202-691-7000 or cpi_info@bls.gov. 
 
 For additional information on seasonal adjustment in the CPI visit 
 www.bls.gov/cpi/seasonal-adjustment/home.htm or contact the CPI seasonal adjustment section at 
 202-691-6968 or cpiseas@bls.gov. 
 
 Information from this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon 
 request. Voice phone: 202-691-5200; Federal Relay Service: 1-800-877-8339.  
 
 
 
 
 




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Last Modified Date: October 13, 2020