News Release Information
Friday, April 10, 2020
Consumer Price Index, Washington-Arlington-Alexandria – March 2020
Area prices down 0.4 percent since January, up 0.4 percent over the year
The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) for Washington-Arlington-Alexandria declined 0.4 percent from January to March, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Sheila Watkins, the Bureau’s regional commissioner, noted that the recent decrease was due to declines in the all items less food and energy index (-0.3 percent) and energy index (-4.9 percent). The food index increased since January, up 0.7 percent. (Data in this report are not seasonally adjusted. Accordingly, month-to-month changes may reflect the impact of seasonal influences.)
Over the last 12 months, the CPI-U advanced 0.4 percent, due largely to a 0.5-percent increase in the all items less food and energy index. (See chart 1 and table A.) Since March 2019, the food index also advanced, up 1.4 percent, while the energy index declined 3.9 percent. (See table 1.)
Following a 0.4-percent increase from November to January, the food index advanced 0.7 percent over the last two months. Prices for food at home increased 0.8 percent, and those for food away from home rose 0.6 percent. Within the food at home component, prices were higher for uncooked beef steaks, citrus fruits, and eggs, while prices were lower for rice, pasta, cornmeal, among others.
Food prices increased 1.4 percent over the year. Prices were higher for food away from home (2.8 percent), and those for food at home inched up 0.1 percent since March 2019.
Since January, the energy index, which includes prices for household and transportation fuels, declined 4.9 percent, due mostly to lower prices for gasoline (-8.4 percent) and utility (piped) gas service (-7.3 percent). Prices were higher for electricity (0.4 percent) over the past two months.
Energy prices decreased 3.9 percent since March 2019, due to lower prices for gasoline, down 6.3 percent. Over the year, prices also declined for utility (piped) gas (-8.3 percent), while electricity prices rose 0.7 percent.
All items less food and energy
The index for all items less food and energy decreased 0.3 percent since January. The decline was led by lower prices for shelter (-0.4 percent) and household furnishings and operations (-1.7 percent) over the last two months. Increased prices for several categories, including new and used motor vehicles (0.8 percent), moderated the decrease in the all items less food and energy index from January to March.
Since March 2019, the index for all items less food and energy rose 0.5 percent. Prices were higher for shelter (1.2 percent) and education and communication (2.9 percent), among others. Prices decreased for apparel (-5.2 percent) and recreation (-2.6 percent) since March 2019.
The Consumer Price Index for May 2020 is scheduled to be released on Wednesday, June 10, 2020, at 8:30 a.m. (EDT).
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Impact on March 2020 Consumer Price Index Data
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) program suspended data collection by personal visit on 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 being 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/bls/effects-of-covid-19-pandemic-on-bls-price-indexes.htm#CPI.
The Consumer Price Index for Washington-Arlington-Alexandria is published bi-monthly. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measure of the average change in prices over time in a fixed market basket of goods and services. The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes CPIs for two population groups: (1) a CPI for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) which covers approximately 94 percent of the total population and (2) a CPI for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) which covers approximately 28 percent of the total population. The CPI-U includes, in addition to wage earners and clerical workers, groups such as professional, managerial, and technical workers, the self-employed, short-term workers, the unemployed, and retirees and others not in the labor force.
The CPI is based on prices of food, clothing, shelter, and fuels, transportation fares, charges for doctors' and dentists' services, drugs, and the other goods and services that people buy for day-to-day living. Each month, prices are collected 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.
The index measures price changes from a designated reference date (1982-84) that equals 100.0. An increase of 16.5 percent, for example, is shown as 116.5. This change can also be expressed in dollars as follows: the price of a base period "market basket" of goods and services in the CPI has risen from $10 in 1982-84 to $11.65. For further details see the CPI home page on the Internet at www.bls.gov/cpi and the BLS Handbook of Methods, Chapter 17, The Consumer Price Index, available on the Internet at www.bls.gov/opub/hom/pdf/homch17.pdf.
In calculating the index, price changes for the various items in each location are averaged together with weights that represent their importance in the spending of the appropriate population group. Local data are then combined to obtain a U.S. city average. Because the sample size of a local area is smaller, the local area index is subject to substantially more sampling and other measurement error than the national index. In addition, local indexes are not adjusted for seasonal influences. As a result, local area indexes show greater volatility than the national index, although their long-term trends are quite similar. Note: Area indexes do not measure differences in the level of prices between cities; they only measure the average change in prices for each area since the base period.
The Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MA-WV, Core Based Statistical Area includes the District of Columbia; the counties of Calvert, Charles, Frederick, Montgomery, and Prince George’s in Maryland; the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Fredericksburg, Manassas, and Manassas Park and the counties of Arlington, Clarke, Culpeper, Fairfax, Fauquier, Loudoun, Prince William, Rappahannock, Spotsylvania, Stafford, and Warren in Virginia; and the county of Jefferson in West Virginia.
Information in this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request. Voice phone: (202) 691-5200; Federal Relay Service: (800) 877-8339.
|Expenditure category||Indexes||Percent change from|
Food and beverages
Food at home
Cereals and bakery products
Meats, poultry, fish, and eggs
Dairy and related products
Fruits and vegetables
Nonalcoholic beverages and beverage materials(1)
Other food at home
Food away from home
Rent of primary residence
Owners' equivalent rent of residences(2)
Owners' equivalent rent of primary residence(2)
Fuels and utilities
Utility (piped) gas service
Household furnishings and operations
New and used motor vehicles(3)
Used cars and trucks(1)
Gasoline (all types)
Gasoline, unleaded regular(4)
Gasoline, unleaded premium(4)
Motor vehicle insurance(1)
Education and communication(3)
Tuition, other school fees, and child care(1)
Other goods and services
Commodity and service group
Commodities less food and beverages
Nondurables less food and beverages
Special aggregate indexes
All items less shelter
All items less medical care
Commodities less food
Nondurables less food
Services less rent of shelter(2)
Services less medical care services
All items less energy
All items less food and energy
Last Modified Date: Friday, April 10, 2020