News Release Information
Friday, April 10, 2020
Consumer Price Index, Boston-Cambridge-Newton — March 2020
Area prices little changed over two months; up 1.8 percent from a year ago
The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) in the Boston-Cambridge-Newton area was little changed in March, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Regional Commissioner William J. Sibley noted that this was mainly attributable to higher food prices, up 1.7 percent and to a lesser extent, higher all items less food and energy prices, up 0.2 percent. Lower energy prices down 4.1 percent nearly offset the increase. (Data in this report are not seasonally adjusted. Accordingly, bimonthly changes may reflect the impact of seasonal influences.)
Over the last 12 months, the Boston CPI-U rose 1.8 percent. The increase was largely attributable to higher shelter costs within all items less food and energy, up 3.6 percent, and, to a lesser extent, higher food costs, up 2.3 percent. Lower energy prices down 4.4 percent partially offset the increase. (See chart 1.)
Food prices increased 1.7 percent since January, mainly due to higher food at home or grocery store prices, up 2.7 percent. Higher food at home prices were mainly driven by higher prices for fruits and vegetables category, up 5.7 percent.
Food prices increased 2.3 percent over the year, mainly due to higher grocery store and food away from home or restaurant prices, up 2.0 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively.
The energy index decreased 4.1 percent over the two months, mainly due to lower gasoline prices, down 4.9 percent.
Energy prices decreased 4.4 percent from a year ago, mainly due to lower gasoline prices, down 2.9 percent.
All items less food and energy
The index for all items less food and energy edged up from January (0.2 percent) mainly due to higher apparel costs, up 5.3 percent, and to a lesser extent, shelter costs, up 0.3 percent. Within shelter, higher costs for owners’ equivalent rent of residences, up 0.3 percent led the increase. Also contributing to the overall increase was medical care costs, up 1.4 percent. Lower public transportation costs partially offset the overall increase.
Over the year, the index for all items less food and energy rose 2.3 percent, with higher shelter costs being the main driver of the increase, up 3.6 percent. Within shelter, higher costs for owners’ equivalent rent of residences, up 3.8 percent, and to a lesser extent, rent of primary residence, up 2.8 percent, led the increase. Also contributing to the overall increase in prices within all items less food and energy were higher medical care costs, up 8.2 percent, and, to a lesser extent, higher costs within education and communication, up 3.0 percent. Lower apparel prices, down, 7.8 percent partially offset the overall increase.
In March, the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) was 284.368. The CPI-W remained unchanged over two months and increased 1.8 percent over the year.
The May 2020 Consumer Price Index for Boston-Cambridge-Newton is scheduled to be released on Wednesday, June 10, 2020, at 8:30 a.m. (ET).
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. Specific information about the impact of COVID-19 on March 2020 CPI data collection is available at https://www.bls.gov/cpi/additional-resources/covid19-statement-march-2020.htm
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 Boston-Cambridge-Newton, Mass.-N.H. Core Based Statistical Area covered in this release is comprised of Essex, Middlesex, Norfolk, Plymouth, Suffolk Counties in Massachusetts; Rockingham, Strafford Counties in New Hampshire.
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.
|Expenditure category||Indexes||Percent change from|
All items (1967 = 100)
Food and beverages
Food at home
Cereal 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(2)
Fuels and utilities
Utility (piped) gas service(2)
Household furnishings and operations
New and used motor vehicles(5)
Used cars and trucks(1)
Gasoline (all types)
Gasoline, unleaded regular(6)
Gasoline, unleaded premium(6)
Motor vehicle insurance(1)
Education and communication(5)
Tuition, other 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(3)
Services less medical care services
All items less energy
All items less food and energy
Note: Index applies to a month as a whole, not to any specific date.
Last Modified Date: Friday, April 10, 2020