The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) in the Pittsburgh area rose 5.2 percent from the second half of 2010 to the second half of 2011, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Sheila Watkins, the Bureau’s regional commissioner, noted that the recent 12-month advance was the largest since the second half of 1990. The rise in the all items index was due to increases in the indexes for all items less food and energy (3.6 percent), energy (16.5 percent) and food (6.9 percent). The 12-month advance in the all items less food and energy index was led by higher shelter prices while the increase in the energy index was mostly due to higher prices for gasoline. (See chart 1 and table 1.)
The food index rose 6.9 percent since the second half of 2010. The advance was due largely to higher prices for food at home, up 8.3 percent. Prices for food away from home also increased over the year, rising 5.2 percent.
The energy index, which includes prices for household and transportation fuels, jumped 16.5 percent since the second half of 2010. The advance in energy prices was due mainly to higher gasoline prices, up 25.4 percent over the last 12 months. Electricity prices also rose over the year, up 11.1 percent—the largest 12-month increase since the second half of 2007. Partially offsetting these advances were lower prices for utility (piped) gas service, down 5.9 percent from their year-ago levels. The utility gas service index has posted uninterrupted over-the-year decreases since the first half of 2009.
The index for all items less food and energy rose 3.6 percent since a year ago. Within this grouping, price increases were led by shelter (3.2 percent), particularly owners’ equivalent of primary residence (3.4 percent). Higher prices for apparel (10.2 percent) and medical care (5.8 percent), among others, also contributed to the 12-month increase in the all items less food and energy index.
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 87 percent of the total population and (2) a CPI for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) which covers 32 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 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.
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 $10.00 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/homch17_a.htm.
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 Pittsburgh, Pa., Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) includes Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington, and Westmoreland Counties.
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