United States - Consumer Price Index (CPI)

The U.S. consumer price index unexpectedly fell in May, suggesting that the disinflationary pressures from COVID-19 and the actions taken to contain it remain significant. The CPI fell 0.1% in May following a 0.8% drop in April. This is the third consecutive monthly decline, but the weakness in May was in energy, apparel and transportation services. Excluding food and energy, the CPI also declined 0.1%. The monetary policy implications are not that significant, since the Fed isn’t going to remove stimulus any time soon.

United States: Consumer Price Index (CPI)

Mnemonic CPI.IUSA
Unit Index 1982-84=100, SA
Adjustments Seasonally Adjusted
Monthly 0.79 %
Data Apr 2020 255.9
Mar 2020 257.95

Series Information

Source U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
Release Consumer Price Index (CPI)
Frequency Monthly
Start Date 1/31/1947
End Date 4/30/2020

United States: Price

Reference Last Previous Units Frequency
Producer Price Index (PPI) May 2020 201.2 196.6 Index 1982=100, SA Monthly
Consumer Price Index (CPI) Apr 2020 255.9 257.95 Index 1982-84=100, SA Monthly
Wholesale Price Index 2016 100.37 103.09 Index 2010 = 100 Annual

Consumer Price Index (CPI) Definition

The consumer price index (CPI) is a measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a fixed market basket of consumer goods and services from A to Z. The CPI provides a way for consumers to compare what the market basket of goods and services costs this month with what the same market basket cost a month or a year ago. The CPI reflects spending patterns for each of two population groups: all urban consumers (CPI-U) and urban wage earners and clerical workers (CPI-W). The CPI-U represents about 80% of the total U.S. population. The CPI represents all goods and services purchased for consumption by urban households. It reports price changes in over 200 categories, arranged into eight major groups. The CPI includes various user fees such as water and sewerage charges, auto registration fees, vehicle tolls, and so forth. Taxes that are directly associated with the prices of specific goods and services (such as sales and excise taxes) are also included. But the CPI excludes taxes not directly associated with the purchase of consumer goods and services (such as income and Social Security taxes). Each month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics surveys retail establishments throughout the U.S. and gathers price information on thousands of items. These items are then put into one of the 200 expenditure categories, and by weighting them by their importance, price changes in the categories can be estimated. These categories are then weighted by their importance and further aggregations are done until an overall CPI number is produced. Cautionary note: All of the CPI measures discussed in this release are seasonally adjusted. However, other news sources such as Bloomberg and the WSJ frequently cite the top-line inflation rate for the unadjusted CPI index, which is included in BLS announcements. This can result in occasional confusion, especially on the rare occasions when the unadjusted CPI increases while the seasonally adjusted CPI decreases, or vice versa.

Release Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports monthly consumer price indices (CPI) for the United States. CPI measures the change in prices paid by consumers for goods and services. Figures are reported using various bases, both seasonally adjusted (SA) and not seasonally adjusted (NSA).

The BLS reports CPI for two different population groups:

  1. Urban consumers (CPI-U): all residents of the urban or metropolitan areas which include professionals, self-employed, the poor, the unemployed, retirees, and urban wage earners and clerical worker. This group represents approximately 94% of the total U.S. population. Those not included in this group are those living in rural nonmetroplitan areas, farming families, Armed Forces and those in institutions (prisons and mental hospitals).
  2. Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W): all households that meet the following requirements: more than one half of the household's income comes from clerical or wage occupations AND at least one of the household's earners have been employed for at least 37 weeks during the previous 12 months. This group represents approximately 28% of the total U.S. population and is a subset of urban consumers.

Data is collected each month in 75 urban areas in the United States. There are about 5,000 housing units and 22,000 retail establishments sampled. Taxes associated with the purchase of goods or services are included in the price and index. Data is typically collected by personal visits or phone calls by BLS representatives.

The index is calculated by aggregation and using weights for each items in a specific location. The weights represent their importance in the spending for each population group. Localized data is then combined to calulcate a U.S. city average. 

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.

The indexes have a base of 1982-84=100, unless otherwise noted.  This means that the average of the monthly index values is 100 over the 36 months in 1982 through 1984.  An index represents the relative change over time since a base period.  For example, an index of 120 denotes an increase of 20%, and 75 is a decrease of 25%.

There are various base periods in this data set depending on the type of good or service and geographical area. The base periods used are: Oct1967=100, Jan1978=100, Feb1978=100, Apr1978=100, Nov1977=100, Dec1977=100, 1982-84=100, Nov1982=100, Dec1982=100, Dec1983=100, Nov1984=100, Dec1986=100, Dec1988=100, Nov1996=100, Dec1996=100, Nov1997=100, Dec1997=100, Dec2005, Dec2007=100, Dec2009=100, or Dec2017=100 indices.

Geographies use CBSA delineations based on the 2010 Census. Geographic coverage includes 23 metros, all 9 divisions, all 4 regions, and 10 class-sizes (population groups by area).

Seasonally adjusted data are computed using seasonal factors derived by the X-13ARIMA-SEATS seasonal adjustment method. Factors are updated each February. Updated factors are used to revise the previous 5 years of seasonally adjusted data.

  • Prices of fuels are obtained each month in all 75 areas. 
  • Commodity and services prices are reported each month for the three largest CBSA mertro geographic areas (Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI, New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA, and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA).
  • National, Regional, and Divisional level data is updated monthly.
  • All other CBSA metros are reported bimonthly (varies even/odd month for each geo). See Table 2: https://www.bls.gov/cpi/additional-resources/geographic-revision-2018.htm
Area NameGeo CodeFrequency
U.S. City Average IUSA  Monthly
Northeast Census Region CNER  Monthly 
Midwest Census Region CNCR  Monthly 
Southern Census Region CSOR  Monthly 
Western Census Region CWER  Monthly 

New England Census Division

CNEC  Monthly 

Middle Atlantic Census Division

CMAC  Monthly 

East North Central Census Division

CENC  Monthly 

West North Central Census Division

CWNC  Monthly 

South Atlantic Census Division

CSAC  Monthly 

East South Central Census Division

CESC  Monthly 

West South Central Census Division

CWSC  Monthly 

Mountain Census Division

CMTN  Monthly 
Pacific Census Division CPAC  Monthly 
Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH IUSA_MBOS  Bimonthly
New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA IUSA_MNEY  Monthly
Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD IUSA_MPHI  Bimonthly
Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI IUSA_MCHI  Monthly
Detroit-Warren-Dearborn, MI IUSA_MDET  Bimonthly
Minneapolis-St.Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI IUSA_MMIN  Bimonthly
St. Louis, MO-IL IUSA_MSTL  Bimonthly
Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV IUSA_MWAS  Bimonthly
Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD IUSA_MBAL  Bimonthly 
Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL IUSA_MMIA  Bimonthly 
Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA IUSA_MATL  Bimonthly 
Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL IUSA_MTAM  Bimonthly 
Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX IUSA_MDAL  Bimonthly 
Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land, TX IUSA_MHOU  Bimonthly 
Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ IUSA_MPHO  Bimonthly 
Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO IUSA_MDEN  Bimonthly 
Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA IUSA_MLOS  Monthly
Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA IUSA_MRIV  Bimonthly
San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA IUSA_MSAF  Bimonthly
Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA IUSA_MSEA  Bimonthly
San Diego-Carlsbad, CA IUSA_MSAN  Bimonthly
Urban Hawaii IUSA_MHON  Bimonthly
Urban Alaska IUSA_MANC  Bimonthly
Size Class B/C CTY_BC Population: 2,500,000 or less
Northeast - Size Class B/C CNER_BC  
Midwest - Size Class B/C CNCR_BC  
South - Size Class B/C CSOR_BC  
West - Size Class B/C CWER_BC  
Size class A CTY_A Population: more than 2,500,000
Northeast - Size Class A CNER_A  
Midwest - Size Class A CNCR_A  
South- Size Class A CSOR_A  
West - Size Class A CWER_A  

The dataset is subject to revisions in the past due to updated expenditure weights.

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