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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) April 13, 2021           USDL-21-0651

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

CONSUMER PRICE INDEX – MARCH 2021

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.6 percent
in March on a seasonally adjusted basis after rising 0.4 percent in February,
the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The March 1-month increase
was the largest rise since a 0.6-percent increase in August 2012. Over the last
12 months, the all items index increased 2.6 percent before seasonal adjustment.

The gasoline index continued to increase, rising 9.1 percent in March and
accounting for nearly half of the seasonally adjusted increase in the all items
index. The natural gas index also rose, contributing to a 5.0-percent increase
in the energy index over the month. The food index rose 0.1 percent in March,
with the food at home index and the food away from home index both also rising
0.1 percent. 

The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.3 percent in March. The
shelter index increased in March as did the motor vehicle insurance index, the
recreation index, and the household furnishings and operations index. Indexes
which decreased over the month include apparel and education. 

The all items index rose 2.6 percent for the 12 months ending March, a much
larger increase than the 1.7-percent reported for the period ending in February.
The index for all items less food and energy rose 1.6 percent over the last
12 months, after increasing 1.3 percent over the 12 month period ending in
February. The food index rose 3.5 percent over the last 12 months, while the
energy index increased 13.2 percent over that period.

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.
                              Sep.  Oct.  Nov.  Dec.  Jan.  Feb.  Mar.   ended
                              2020  2020  2020  2020  2021  2021  2021   Mar.
                                                                         2021

 All items..................    .2    .1    .2    .2    .3    .4    .6      2.6
  Food......................    .1    .2    .0    .3    .1    .2    .1      3.5
   Food at home.............   -.3    .1   -.2    .3   -.1    .3    .1      3.3
   Food away from home (1)..    .6    .3    .1    .4    .3    .1    .1      3.7
  Energy....................   1.4    .6    .7   2.6   3.5   3.9   5.0     13.2
   Energy commodities.......   1.4    .7    .5   5.1   7.3   6.6   8.9     22.0
    Gasoline (all types)....   1.7    .7    .5   5.2   7.4   6.4   9.1     22.5
    Fuel oil (1)............  -3.0    .7   3.3  10.2   5.4   9.9   3.2     20.2
   Energy services..........   1.3    .5    .9    .2   -.3    .9    .6      4.1
    Electricity.............    .8    .6    .3    .4   -.2    .7    .0      2.5
    Utility (piped) gas
       service..............   3.1    .4   3.0   -.4   -.4   1.6   2.5      9.8
  All items less food and
     energy.................    .2    .1    .2    .0    .0    .1    .3      1.6
   Commodities less food and
      energy commodities....    .5    .0    .0    .1    .1   -.2    .1      1.7
    New vehicles............    .3    .3    .0    .4   -.5    .0    .0      1.5
    Used cars and trucks....   5.3    .9  -1.4   -.9   -.9   -.9    .5      9.4
    Apparel.................   -.4   -.9    .7    .9   2.2   -.7   -.3     -2.5
    Medical care
       commodities (1)......   -.6   -.7   -.4   -.2   -.1   -.7    .1     -2.4
   Services less energy
      services..............    .1    .1    .2    .0    .0    .2    .4      1.6
    Shelter.................    .1    .1    .1    .1    .1    .2    .3      1.7
    Transportation services    -.3    .2   1.3   -.6   -.3   -.1   1.8     -1.6
    Medical care services...    .0   -.3   -.1   -.1    .5    .5    .1      2.7

   1 Not seasonally adjusted.


 Food

 The food index increased 0.1 percent in March. The index for food at home also
 rose 0.1 percent over the month as two of the six major grocery store food group
 indexes increased. The index for fruits and vegetables rose 1.0 percent in March,
 following a 0.7-percent increase in February. The index for meats, poultry, fish,
 and eggs rose 0.1 percent in March, a smaller increase than the 0.3-percent
 increase in February. The index for other food at home was unchanged over the
 month.
 
 The index for dairy and related products declined 0.5 percent in March, the third
 consecutive monthly decrease in that index. The index for nonalcoholic beverages
 decreased 0.2 percent over the month, while the index for cereals and bakery
 products declined 0.1 percent.

The food away from home index rose 0.1 percent in March, continuing a long series
of increases. The index for limited service meals rose 0.5 percent, while the index
for full service meals increased 0.2 percent.

The food at home index increased 3.3 percent over the past 12 months. All six major
grocery store food group indexes increased over the period, with increases ranging
from 1.6 percent (dairy and related products) to 5.4 percent (meats, poultry, fish,
and eggs). The index for food away from home rose 3.7 percent over the last year.
The index for limited service meals rose 6.5 percent, the largest 12-month increase
in the history of the index, which began in 1997. The index for full service meals
rose 3.2 percent over the last 12 months. 

Energy

The energy index continued to rise in March, increasing 5.0 percent. The index for
gasoline was again the dominant factor in the increase, rising 9.1 percent over the
month. (Before seasonal adjustment, gasoline prices rose 11.7 percent in March.)
The natural gas index increased 2.5 percent over the month, and the electricity
index was unchanged in March.

The energy index rose 13.2 percent over the past 12 months. The gasoline index rose
22.5 percent over the last 12 months, while the index for natural gas increased
9.8 percent, and the index for electricity rose 2.5 percent over the same period.
The fuel oil index increased 20.2 percent over the last 12 months.

All items less food and energy

The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.3 percent in March. The shelter
index also rose 0.3 percent in March, with the index for owners’ equivalent rent
and the index for rent both increasing 0.2 percent. The motor vehicle insurance
index increased for the third consecutive month, rising 3.3 percent in March. The
index for recreation increased 0.4 percent over the month, as did the index for
household furnishings and operations. The used cars and trucks index also increased
in March, rising 0.5 percent, and the index for personal care increased 0.6 percent
in March.

The medical care index rose 0.1 percent in March, after rising 0.3 percent in
February. The hospital services index increased 0.6 percent over the month, while
the physicians’ services index rose 0.3 percent in March. The index for
prescription drugs was unchanged over the month.

The index for apparel fell 0.3 percent in March, following a 0.7-percent decline
the previous month. The education index also declined over the month, falling
0.2 percent. The index for communication and the index for new vehicles were both
unchanged in March.

The index for all items less food and energy rose 1.6 percent over the past
12 months. Among the indexes rising more quickly were those for shelter
(+1.7 percent), used cars and trucks (+9.4 percent), and medical care
(+1.8 percent). Indexes that declined over the last 12 months include lodging away
from home (-6.4 percent), airline fares (-15.1 percent), and apparel
(-2.5 percent).

Not seasonally adjusted CPI measures

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 2.6 percent over
the last 12 months to an index level of 264.877 (1982-84=100). For the month, the
index increased 0.7 percent prior to seasonal adjustment.  

The Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W)
increased 3.0 percent over the last 12 months to an index level of 258.935
(1982-84=100). For the month, the index rose 0.8 percent prior to seasonal
adjustment.  

The Chained Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (C-CPI-U) increased
2.5 percent over the last 12 months. For the month, the index increased
0.7 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 April 2021 is scheduled to be released on Wednesday,
May 12, 2021 at 8:30 a.m. (ET).

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
 Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic Impact on March 2021 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 March 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-2021.xlsx. 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 2021, BLS adjusted 72 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 2021, revised seasonal 
 factors and seasonally adjusted indexes for 2016 to 2020 were calculated and published. 
 For series which are directly adjusted using the Census X-13ARIMA-SEATS seasonal adjustment 
 software, the seasonal factors for 2020 will be applied to data for 2021 to produce the 
 seasonally adjusted 2021 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. Thirty-four of the 81 
 components of the U.S. city average all items index are not seasonally adjusted for 2021.
 
 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: April 13, 2021