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U.S. August Consumer Price Index Report

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Consumer Price Index - August 2011 

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.4 percent in August on a seasonally adjusted basis, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 3.8 percent before seasonal adjustment. 

The seasonally adjusted increase in the all items index was broad-based, with continuing increases in the indexes for gasoline, food, shelter and apparel. The gasoline index rose for the 12th time in the last 14 months and led to a 1.2 percent increase in the energy index, while the food index rose 0.5 percent, its largest increase since March. 

The index for all items less food and energy increased 0.2 percent in August, the same increase as the previous month. Shelter and apparel were the biggest contributors, though the indexes for most of its major components posted increases, including used cars and trucks, medical care, household furnishings and operations, recreation, tobacco and personal care. The new vehicles index, unchanged for the second month in a row, was an exception.
The 12-month change in the all items index edged up to 3.8 percent after holding at 3.6 percent for three months, while the 12-month change for all items less food and energy reached 2.0 percent for the first time since November 2008. The energy index has risen 18.4 percent over the last year, while the food index has increased 4.6 percent. 

Consumer Price Index Data for August 2011 


The food index rose 0.5 percent in August after rising 0.4 percent in July. The food at home index repeated its July increase of 0.6 percent, with five of the six major grocery store food groups rising. The only exception was the index for nonalcoholic beverages, which declined slightly in August after rising in June and July. The cereals and bakery products index rose the most, increasing 1.1 percent, followed by a 0.9 percent increase in the index for dairy and related products. The index for other food at home rose 0.8 percent as the index for sugar and sweets rose sharply. The indexes for fruits and vegetables and for meats, poultry, fish and eggs rose 0.6 percent and 0.4 percent, respectively. The food at home index has now risen 6.0 percent over the past 12 months, with all six groups rising at least 4.0 percent. The index for food away from home advanced 0.4 percent in August, its largest increase since October 2008, and has risen 2.7 percent over the last year. 


The energy index, which rose 2.8 percent in July, increased 1.2 percent in August. The gasoline index rose 1.9 percent in August after a 4.7 percent increase in July. (Before seasonal adjustment, gasoline prices fell 0.5 percent in August.) Over the past 12 months, the gasoline index has increased 32.4 percent. The household energy index rose modestly in August, increasing 0.4 percent. The indexes for electricity and fuel oil both declined slightly, but the index for natural gas increased 2.2 percent in August after declining in July. Over the past year, the household energy index has increased 2.7 percent. The fuel oil index has risen 35.4 percent over that period, while the electricity index has risen 1.9 percent and the index for natural gas has declined, falling 2.0 percent. 

All Items Less Food and Energy 

The index for all items less food and energy increased 0.2 percent in August, the fifth month in a row that the increase has either been 0.2 percent or 0.3 percent. Similarly, the shelter index rose 0.2 percent in August, its fourth increase in a row of at least that size. The index for rent increased 0.4 percent in August, its largest increase since June 2008. The index for owners' equivalent rent rose 0.2 percent, and the index for lodging away from home turned down after recent increases, falling 1.8 percent. The index for apparel continued its string of substantial increases, rising 1.1 percent in August. The used cars and trucks index also continued to rise, increasing 0.9 percent. The medical care index increased 0.2 percent for the fourth month in a row, with medical care commodities rising 0.1 percent and medical care services increasing 0.3 percent. Also increasing were the indexes for household furnishings and operations (0.3 percent), airline fares (1.1 percent), recreation (0.1 percent), personal care (0.2 percent) and tobacco (0.5 percent). The index for new vehicles was unchanged for the second month in a row after a series of increases. 

The index for all items less food and energy has risen 2.0 percent in the last 12 months. This 12-month change has been trending up since reaching a low of 0.6 percent for the 12 months ending October 2010. The 12-month change in the shelter index, which was negative through much of 2010, reached 1.6 percent in August. The 12-month change in the apparel index has now reached 4.2 percent after being negative as recently as March of this year. Major transportation indexes have risen strongly over the last 12 months, including used cars and trucks (5.4 percent), new vehicles (3.8 percent) and airline fares (9.5 percent). 

Not Seasonally Adjusted CPI Measures 

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 3.8 percent over the last 12 months to an index level of 226.545 (1982-84=100). For the month, the index increased 0.3 percent prior to seasonal adjustment. 

The Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) increased 4.3 percent over the last 12 months to an index level of 223.326 (1982-84=100). For the month, the index increased 0.3 percent prior to seasonal adjustment. 

The Chained Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (C- CPI-U) increased 3.6 percent over the last 12 months. For the month, the index increased 0.3 percent on a not seasonally adjusted basis. Please note that the indexes for the post-2009 period are subject to revision.
The Consumer Price Index for September 2011 is scheduled to be released on Wednesday, October 19, 2011, at 8:30 a.m. (EDT). 

Brief Explanation of the CPI 

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measure of the average change in prices over time of goods and services purchased by households. The Bureau of Labor Statistics publishes CPIs for two population groups: (1) the CPI for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), which covers households of wage earners and clerical workers that comprise approximately 32 percent of the total population and (2) the CPI for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) and the Chained CPI for All Urban Consumers (C-CPI-U), which cover approximately 87 percent of the total population and include in addition to wage earners and clerical worker households, 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 CPIs are based on prices of food, clothing, shelter and fuels, transportation fares, charges for doctors' and dentists' services, drugs and other goods and services that people buy for day-to-day living. Prices are collected each month in 87 urban areas across the country from about 4,000 housing units and approximately 26,000 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 87 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 of the Bureau's trained representatives. 

In calculating the index, price changes for the various items in each location are averaged together with 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, region of the country,  cross-classifications of regions and population-size classes, and 27 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 is issued only at the national level. It is important to note that the CPI-U and CPI- W are considered final when released, but the C-CPI-U is issued in preliminary form and subject to two annual revisions. 

The index measures price change from a designed reference date. For 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 16.5 percent from the reference base, for example, is shown as 116.500. 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.

Calculating Index Changes 

Movements of the indexes from one 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 example below illustrates the computation of index point and percent changes. 

Percent changes for 3-month and 6-month periods are expressed as annual rates and are computed according to the standard formula for compound growth rates. These data indicate what the percent change would be if the current rate were maintained for a 12-month period. 


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