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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. (EDT) June 10, 2020                  USDL-20-1186

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

CONSUMER PRICE INDEX – MAY 2020

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) declined 0.1 percent in
May on a seasonally adjusted basis after falling 0.8 percent in April, the U.S.
Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items
index increased 0.1 percent before seasonal adjustment.

Declines in the indexes for motor vehicle insurance, energy, and apparel more than
offset increases in food and shelter indexes to result in the monthly decrease in
the seasonally adjusted all items index. The gasoline index declined 3.5 percent
in May, leading to a 1.8-percent decline in the energy index. The food index, in
contrast, increased 0.7 percent in May as the index for food at home rose 1.0
percent. 

The index for all items less food and energy fell 0.1 percent in May, its third
consecutive monthly decline. This is the first time this index has ever declined
in three consecutive months. Along with motor vehicle insurance and apparel, the
indexes for airline fares and used cars and trucks declined in May. The indexes
for shelter, recreation, medical care, household furnishings and operations, and
new vehicles all increased. 
 
The all items index increased 0.1 percent for the 12 months ending May. The index
for all items less food and energy increased 1.2 percent over the last 12 months;
this compares to a 2.4-percent increase a few months ago (the period ending
February). The energy index fell 18.9 percent over the last year. The food index
increased 4.0 percent over the last 12 months, with the index for food at home
rising 4.8 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
                              Nov.  Dec.  Jan.  Feb.  Mar.  Apr.  May   12-mos.
                              2019  2019  2020  2020  2020  2020  2020   ended 
                                                                       May 2020
                                                                               
                                                                               
 All items..................    .2    .2    .1    .1   -.4   -.8   -.1       .1
  Food......................    .1    .2    .2    .4    .3   1.5    .7      4.0
   Food at home.............    .1    .0    .1    .5    .5   2.6   1.0      4.8
   Food away from home (1)..    .2    .3    .4    .2    .2    .1    .4      2.9
  Energy....................    .8   1.6   -.7  -2.0  -5.8 -10.1  -1.8    -18.9
   Energy commodities.......   1.2   3.0  -1.6  -3.5 -10.4 -20.0  -3.5    -33.2
    Gasoline (all types)....   1.2   3.1  -1.6  -3.4 -10.5 -20.6  -3.5    -33.8
    Fuel oil................   1.0   1.1   -.4  -8.5 -13.7 -15.6  -6.3    -37.5
   Energy services..........    .2   -.2    .6   -.3   -.5    .1   -.5      -.2
    Electricity.............    .2   -.2    .4   -.1   -.2    .1   -.8      -.2
    Utility (piped) gas                                                        
       service..............    .5   -.5   1.0   -.9  -1.4    .2    .8      -.3
  All items less food and                                                      
     energy.................    .2    .1    .2    .2   -.1   -.4   -.1      1.2
   Commodities less food and                                                   
      energy commodities....   -.1    .0    .0    .2   -.3   -.7   -.2     -1.0
    New vehicles............   -.1    .1    .0    .1   -.4    .0    .3      -.3
    Used cars and trucks....   -.7   -.4  -1.2    .4    .8   -.4   -.4      -.4
    Apparel.................    .6    .1    .7    .4  -2.0  -4.7  -2.3     -7.9
    Medical care commodities    .0   1.0   -.6   -.6    .0   -.1    .1       .8
   Services less energy                                                        
      services..............    .3    .2    .3    .2    .0   -.4    .0      2.0
    Shelter.................    .3    .2    .4    .3    .0    .0    .2      2.5
    Transportation services     .0   -.1    .3    .3  -1.9  -4.7  -3.6     -8.7
    Medical care services...    .4    .3    .3    .3    .5    .5    .6      5.9

   1 Not seasonally adjusted.
   
Food

The food index increased 0.7 percent in May following a 1.5-percent increase in
April. The food at home index continued to rise, increasing 1.0 percent in May.
However, unlike the broad increase in April, the May increase was driven mostly by
a 3.7-percent rise in the index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs. The beef index
increased 10.8 percent in May, its largest ever monthly increase.

Other major grocery store food group indexes were mixed in May. The index for
dairy and related products increased 1.0 percent, and the index for fruits and
vegetables rose 0.5 percent. The indexes for nonalcoholic beverages and for other
food at home were both unchanged in May. The index for cereals and bakery products
fell 0.2 percent in May after rising 2.9 percent in April.

The index for food away from home rose 0.4 percent in May after rising 0.1 percent
in April. The index for limited service meals rose 0.6 percent in May following a
0.7-percent increase in April. The full service meals index increased 0.2 percent
in May after falling 0.3 percent in April. 

The food at home index increased 4.8 percent over the last 12 months, with all six
major grocery store food group indexes rising over that span. The index for meats,
poultry, fish, and eggs rose 10.0 percent over the last year, its largest 12-month
increase since the period ending May 2004. This reflects a sharp increase in the
beef index, which rose 18.2 percent over the span. The index for dairy and related
products increased 5.7 percent, and the index for nonalcoholic beverages rose 4.1
percent over the year. The remaining groups posted smaller increases. The index
for food away from home rose 2.9 percent over the last year. The index for limited
service meals increased 3.6 percent and the index for full service meals rose 2.4
percent over the last 12 months.

Energy

The energy index declined 1.8 percent in May following a 10.1-percent decline in
April. The gasoline index fell 3.5 percent in May after falling 20.6 percent in
April. (Before seasonal adjustment, gasoline prices fell 0.2 percent in May.) The
electricity index also declined in May, falling 0.8 percent, its largest 1-month
decline since May 2015. The index for natural gas, however, rose 0.8 percent in
May. 

The energy index fell 18.9 percent over the past 12 months as all of the major
energy component indexes declined. The gasoline index decreased 33.8 percent,
while the fuel oil index fell 37.5 percent. The index for electricity fell 0.2
percent over the last year, while the index for natural gas declined 0.3 percent.
 
All items less food and energy

The index for all items less food and energy decreased 0.1 percent in May. The
index for motor vehicle insurance continued to decline, falling 8.9 percent in May
after a 7.2-percent decrease in April. The apparel index also continued to decline,
falling 2.3 percent in May after decreasing 4.7 percent the prior month. The index 
for airline fares fell 4.9 percent in May, and the index for used cars and trucks 
declined 0.4 percent, the same decrease as in April.

The shelter index rose 0.2 percent in May. The indexes for rent and for owners’
equivalent rent both increased 0.3 percent in May after rising 0.2 percent in
April. The index for lodging away from home continued to decline, falling 1.5
percent in May. The index for recreation increased 0.9 percent in May after
declining in April. The medical care index rose 0.5 percent in May following a
0.4-percent increase in April. The index for physicians’ services increased 0.7
percent and the index for hospital services rose 0.1 percent, while the index for
prescription drugs declined 0.2 percent over the month.  

The index for household furnishings and operations rose 0.4 percent in May. The
new vehicles index increased 0.3 percent in May after being unchanged in April.
The index for alcoholic beverages increased 0.8 percent in May, its largest
increase since January 2012. The index for education also rose in May, increasing
0.2 percent.  

The index for all items less food and energy rose 1.2 percent over the past 12
months. The shelter index rose 2.5 percent over the 12-month span, and the
medical care index rose 4.9 percent. Notable indexes that declined over the past
12 months include airline fares (-28.8 percent), motor vehicle insurance (-14.3
percent), apparel (-7.9 percent), and new vehicles (-0.3 percent). 

Not seasonally adjusted CPI measures

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.1 percent
over the last 12 months to an index level of 256.394 (1982-84=100). For the month,
the index was unchanged prior to seasonal adjustment.  

The Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W)
decreased 0.1 percent over the last 12 months to an index level of 249.521
(1982-84=100). For the month, the index was unchanged prior to seasonal adjustment.  

The Chained Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (C-CPI-U) decreased 0.2
percent over the last 12 months. For the month, the index was unchanged 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 June 2020 is scheduled to be released on Tuesday,
July 14, 2020 at 8:30 a.m. (EDT).

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic Impact on May 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 May 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: June 10, 2020