Redesigning the Consumer Price Index (CPI) Press Release Tables

The format of the tables contained in the CPI news release changed beginning with this CPI news release for March, 2012. News release tables are part of the news release pdf and html files, and are available independently in html format. The new tables are also available in XLS format. In addition, the BLS will begin issuing monthly companion XLS files, which will contain additional index level and CPI-W information.

.These tables were made available for public comment during October 2011. In response to the public comments, the BLS will issue XLS files each month, as companions to the news release. There will be CPI-U and CPI-W files, and in addition to the data contained in the news release tables, the Excel files will contain index values

In August 2009, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) restructured the text of the CPI news release to focus on the price movements of three broad expenditure categories, namely Food, Energy, and All items less food and energy. Table A within the CPI news release text was also updated in August 2009 to reflect this new structure. Before August 2009, the text of the CPI news release had focused on eight CPI ‘major groups’ (Food and beverages; Housing; Apparel; Transportation; Medical care; Recreation; Education and communication; and Other goods and services).

While the text of the CPI news release was restructured in 2009, seven additional CPI news release tables continued to be published using the eight major groups. BLS has redesigned these news release tables, to reflect the focus on Food, Energy, and All items less food and energy. Within these three broad categories, CPI item series are further divided into commodities and services.

Beyond the redesign in the structure of the CPI press release tables, several other improvements to these tables have been made.

The new Table 1 gives a summary of the index series which typically contribute to changes in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U).

The new Table 2 shows the full publication stub using the new structure for the CPI-U, including 11 new items series that were created to augment the redesign in the publication structure. Table 3 shows aggregate item series (e.g., Transportation) that do not fall under the Food, Energy, and All items less food and energy structure.

Table 4 shows the All items indexes at the local, regional, and city-size class levels.

Table 5 shows the Chained Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (C-CPI-U), and presents a history of annual percentage changes in the C-CPI-U compared to the CPI-U.

Table 6 focuses on 1-month seasonally adjusted changes in the CPI-U, while table 7 focuses on 12-month not seasonally adjusted changes. Tables 6 and 7 present three additional pieces of data to help users better interpret index changes. First, these tables show the ‘effect’ each item has on the price change for All items. For example, if the effect of food is 0.4, and the index for All items increased 1.2 percent, it can be said that increases in food prices accounted for 0.4 / 1.2, or 33.3 percent, of the increase in overall prices for that period. Said another way, had food Effects can be negative as well. For example, if the effect of food was a negative 0.1, and the All items index rose 0.5 percent, the All items index actually would have been 0.1 percent higher (or 0.6 percent) had food prices been unchanged.

Second, standard errors for percent changes are shown on tables 6 and 7. Confidence intervals for statistics can be created using standard errors; e.g., roughly 95 percent confidence intervals can be constructed using two standard errors. For example, if an item increased 3.7 percent, and its standard error was 0.6 percent, the 95 percent confidence interval for that price change can be said to be 3.7 percent plus or minus two standard errors, or 3.7 percent plus or minus 1.2 percent.

Finally, each item series in tables 6 and 7 show the last time that item had a price change as large (or as small) as the percent change published that period. For example, if bananas rose 3.7 percent, and that was its largest increase since November 2007, that would be noted in the new tables.

In addition, most of the previous tables showed the ‘relative importance’, or weight, of each item category as of the previous December. The relative importance columns in the new tables are improved in that they are updated monthly to reflect the change in relative prices over time.

Finally, there are no longer any news release tables that focus on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). That said, the CPI-W All items index level and percent changes will still be noted in the text of the news release, and a companion XLS file with CPI-W information will be available

Sample files (using November 2011 data) are available:

Mock-up of CPI News Release Tables in PDF

Mock-up of CPI News Release Tables in XLS

Mock-up of CPI News Release Tables in HTML

Mock-up of Companion Files in XLS


Last Modified Date: April 13, 2012