The United States Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics will begin collecting data for the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in the Huntsville, Alabama area in May 2020. According to Regional Commissioner Janet S. Rankin, the communities of Limestone and Madison Counties make up one of three new areas in which CPI data will be collected beginning this year, the last addition of new areas to the CPI sample since its 1998 revision. The other areas to be added in 2020 are Louisville, KY and Moses Lake, WA.
The Consumer Price Index is one of the nation’s most important economic indicators. It is a principal gauge of inflation used widely in the formulation and evaluation of economic policy; adjusting COLA payments under many government programs including payments to Social Security beneficiaries, retired military and federal civil service employees and survivors; adjusting agreements including rentals/leases, collective bargaining and wages and pensions. It is a measure of the average change in prices paid by urban consumers for a fixed market basket of goods and services. It is an estimate based on a group of representative prices paid for items including food, clothing, shelter, fuels, transportation, medical services, and other goods and services people buy for day-to-day living.
The Consumer Price Index periodically updates the geographic areas across the country in which prices are collected. That last time the areas were updated was in 1998 based on the 1990 Census of Population. The new design reflects shifts in the U.S. population based on the 2010 Decennial Census. The CPI will transition from the current 87-area design to a new 75-area design over a period of about 5 years. During this time, 21 new areas will be added and work in 31 current areas will be discontinued, and the counties covered in other areas may change as well based on updated information from the Office of Management and Budget. The first addition of new areas to the CPI sample started in 2016 with six new areas: Rochester, NY; Clarksburg, WV; Orlando, FL; Flint, MI; Meridian, MS; and Santa Rosa, CA. Data collected in these areas were used for the first time with the January 2018 index. The second addition of new areas to the CPI sample started in 2018 with six new areas: Wilmington, NC; Jacksonville, NC; Janesville, WI; Omaha, NE; Russellville, AR; and Wichita, KS. Data collected in these areas were used for the first time with the November 2019 index. The third addition of new areas to the CPI sample started in 2019 with five new areas: Winston-Salem, NC; Charlotte, NC; Frankfort, IN; Paris, TX; and St. George, UT. Data collected in these areas will be used for the first time with the November 2020 index.
Employees from the CPI will make personal visits to explain the survey to retail establishments selected as a result of telephone surveys conducted that asked local residents where they bought various goods and services. They will also visit housing units chosen using statistical methods to represent the local housing market. The interviews are brief and no one will be asked to fill out any forms. Data collected from businesses and households by BLS are held in strict confidence and used for statistical purposes only.
Representatives will carry official identification and are U.S. Department of Labor employees. Local staff members will be part-time Economic Assistants who will be trained to collect data in person and by telephone using portable tablet computers. Job announcements for Economic Assistant positions can be found on usajobs.gov.
Further information regarding the CPI or the broad range of economic data available from the BLS may be obtained by contacting the Atlanta Regional Office at (404) 893 - 4222 or by visiting the BLS website at www.bls.gov.