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8:30 a.m. (EDT) April 10, 2019 USDL-19-0611
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CONSUMER PRICE INDEX – MARCH 2019
The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.4 percent
in March on a seasonally adjusted basis after rising 0.2 percent in February,
the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months,
the all items index increased 1.9 percent before seasonal adjustment.
The energy index increased 3.5 percent in March, accounting for about 60
percent of the seasonally adjusted all items monthly increase. The gasoline
index increased sharply, and the electricity index also rose, although the
natural gas index declined. The food index also increased in March, with the
indexes for food at home and food away from home both continuing to rise.
The index for all items less food and energy increased 0.1 percent in March,
the same increase as in February. The indexes for shelter, medical care, new
vehicles, recreation, education, and tobacco were among those that increased
in March, while the indexes for apparel, used cars and trucks, and airline
fares all declined.
The all items index increased 1.9 percent for the 12 months ending March, a
larger increase than the 1.5-percent rise for the period ending February. The
index for all items less food and energy rose 2.0 percent over the last 12
months. The food index rose 2.1 percent over the past year, its largest 12-month
increase since the period ending March 2015, while the energy index declined
0.4 percent over the past year.
Table A. Percent changes in CPI for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U): U.S. city average
Seasonally adjusted changes from
Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec. Jan. Feb. Mar. ended
2018 2018 2018 2018 2019 2019 2019 Mar.
All items.................. .1 .3 .0 .0 .0 .2 .4 1.9
Food...................... .1 .0 .2 .3 .2 .4 .3 2.1
Food at home............. -.1 -.1 .1 .3 .1 .4 .4 1.4
Food away from home (1).. .2 .1 .3 .4 .3 .4 .2 3.0
Energy.................... -1.0 2.1 -2.8 -2.6 -3.1 .4 3.5 -.4
Energy commodities....... -1.1 2.6 -5.0 -5.7 -5.3 1.5 6.2 -.6
Gasoline (all types).... -1.2 2.7 -5.2 -5.8 -5.5 1.5 6.5 -.7
Fuel oil................ -.7 3.2 -2.9 -9.4 -1.3 2.6 2.1 -.4
Energy services.......... -.9 1.3 .2 1.5 -.5 -.8 .3 -.1
Electricity............. -.7 1.8 .2 .4 -.6 -.3 .4 .3
Utility (piped) gas
service.............. -1.5 -.5 .2 5.1 -.3 -2.4 -.1 -1.4
All items less food and
energy................. .2 .2 .2 .2 .2 .1 .1 2.0
Commodities less food and
energy commodities.... -.1 .3 .2 .0 .4 -.2 -.2 .0
New vehicles............ .0 -.2 .0 .0 .2 -.2 .4 .7
Used cars and trucks.... -2.1 2.5 2.5 -.5 .1 -.7 -.4 .4
Apparel................. .9 .2 -.6 .0 1.1 .3 -1.9 -2.2
Medical care commodities -.2 -.1 .5 -.4 .1 -1.0 .4 -.6
Services less energy
services.............. .3 .2 .2 .2 .2 .2 .3 2.7
Shelter................. .2 .2 .3 .3 .3 .3 .4 3.4
Transportation services .5 .1 .0 -.1 -.2 -.1 .0 1.0
Medical care services... .3 .2 .4 .4 .3 .0 .3 2.3
1 Not seasonally adjusted.
The food index rose 0.3 percent in March following a 0.4-percent increase in
February. The index for food at home rose 0.4 percent in March, the same increase
as the prior month. The index for fruits and vegetables rose 1.6 percent, with
the index for fresh vegetables increasing 2.0 percent and the index for fresh
fruits rising 1.2 percent. The dairy and related products index increased 0.6
percent, and the cereals and bakery products index rose 0.3 percent. The index
for other food at home also increased in March, rising 0.1 percent.
The index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs was the only major grocery store
food group index to decline in March, falling 0.2 percent after rising 0.2 percent
in February. The index for nonalcoholic beverages was unchanged in March after
increasing in each of the prior 3 months.
The index for food away from home rose 0.2 percent in March after increasing 0.4
percent in February. The index for limited service meals rose 0.2 percent and the
index for full service meals increased 0.1 percent.
The food at home index rose 1.4 percent over the last 12 months. Five of the six
major grocery store food group indexes rose over the span, with the fruits and
vegetables index posting the largest increase at 3.9 percent. The index for meats,
poultry, fish, and eggs was the only one to decline, falling 0.2 percent over the
last 12 months. The index for food away from home increased 3.0 percent over the
past 12 months, with the index for limited service meals increasing 3.1 percent
and the index for full service meals rising 2.8 percent.
The energy index rose 3.5 percent in March. The gasoline index rose 6.5 percent
in March after increasing 1.5 percent in February. (Before seasonal adjustment,
gasoline prices rose 9.0 percent in March.) The electricity index also increased
in March, rising 0.4 percent after falling in January and February. The index for
natural gas declined for the third month in a row, falling 0.1 percent in March.
Despite the increase in March, the energy index fell slightly over the last 12
months, declining 0.4 percent. The index for gasoline fell 0.7 percent, while the
index for natural gas declined 1.4 percent. The electricity index, in contrast,
increased 0.3 percent over the last 12 months.
All items less food and energy
The index for all items less food and energy increased 0.1 percent in March, the
same monthly increase as in February. The shelter index continued to rise, increasing
0.4 percent. The index for rent rose 0.4 percent, while the index for owners’
equivalent rent increased 0.3 percent.
The medical care index, which declined in February, rose 0.3 percent in March. The
index for prescription drugs increased 0.6 percent in March following a 1.0-percent
decline in February. The index for hospital services also increased in March, rising
0.3 percent, but the index for physicians’ services declined, falling 0.4 percent.
The index for new vehicles increased 0.4 percent in March after declining in February.
The recreation index rose 0.3 percent, and the education index advanced 0.5 percent.
The index for tobacco increased 1.6 percent, its largest increase since April 2017.
In contrast, the index for apparel declined 1.9 percent in March after rising in
February. The index for used cars and trucks fell for the second month in a row in
March, declining 0.4 percent. The index for airline fares fell in March, decreasing
0.6 percent after rising in February. Also declining in March were the indexes for
communication and for motor vehicle insurance.
The index for all items less food and energy rose 2.0 percent over the past 12 months,
a slightly smaller increase than the 2.1-percent rise for the period ending February.
The shelter index rose 3.4 percent over the span, and the medical care index increased
1.7 percent. The indexes for apparel, airline fares, and communication all declined
for the 12 months ending March.
Not seasonally adjusted CPI measures
The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 1.9 percent over the
last 12 months to an index level of 254.202 (1982-84=100). For the month, the index
increased 0.6 percent prior to seasonal adjustment.
The Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) increased
1.8 percent over the last 12 months to an index level of 247.768 (1982-84=100). For the
month, the index increased 0.6 percent prior to seasonal adjustment.
The Chained Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (C-CPI-U) increased 1.7 percent
over the last 12 months. For the month, the index increased 0.6 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 2019 is scheduled to be released on Friday, May 10,
2019, at 8:30 a.m. (EDT).
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
5,000 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-2019.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
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.
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 2019, BLS adjusted 51 series using intervention
analysis seasonal adjustment, including selected food and beverage items, motor fuels, electricity,
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 2019, revised seasonal factors and seasonally adjusted indexes
for 2014 to 2018 were calculated and published. For series which are directly adjusted using the
Census X-13ARIMA-SEATS seasonal adjustment software, the seasonal factors for 2018 will be applied
to data for 2019 to produce the seasonally adjusted 2019 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-nine of the 81 components of the U.S. city average all items index are not seasonally-
adjusted for 2019.
For additional information about the CPI visit www.bls.gov/cpi or contact the CPI Information and
Analysis Section at 202-691-7000 or email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.