Mid-Atlantic Information Office

Web site: www.bls.gov/ro3/ PLS – 4495
For Release:
Friday, February 20, 2009
Information: Michael Dickie
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Washington-Baltimore Consumer Price Index: January 2009 (PDF)

Retail Prices Decline for the Second Consecutive Bimonthly Period

Retail prices in the Washington-Baltimore area, as measured by the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U), decreased 0.7 percent from November to January, following a 2.5-percent decline in the previous two-month period, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today.  Sheila Watkins, the Bureau’s regional commissioner, noted that the recent decline was dominated by lower transportation prices, in particular lower gasoline prices.  Following normal seasonal patterns, the apparel index was the only other major category to register a decrease from November to January.  The remaining six major categories experienced price advances over the last two months, which helped to moderate the decrease in retail prices in the Washington-Baltimore area.  (See chart A.)  The January level of 137.598 (November 1996 = 100) was 1.0 percent higher than in January 2008—the smallest 12-month increase since an identical advance in May 1998.  Over the same period, the core inflation rate, as measured by the all items less food and energy index, rose 2.4 percent.  (See table 1.)

Chart A.  2-month and 12-month percent changes ended January 2009 for the major categories of the CPI-U for the Washington-Baltimore area, not seasonally adjusted

2-month and 12-month percent changes ended January 2009 for the major categories of the CPI-U for the Washington-Baltimore area, not seasonally adjusted
chart data

Transportation prices declined 4.8 percent from November to January.  The recent decrease was due almost entirely to lower gasoline prices, which dropped 19.7 percent since November following large declines in both the July-September (-10.2 percent) and September-November (-39.5 percent) periods.  The gasoline index has declined 56.4 percent since July and 42.1 percent since last January.  The overall transportation index declined 12.9 percent over the year—the largest 12-month decrease since the inception of the index in November 1996.

The apparel index fell 7.8 percent since November.  Apparel prices typically decline over this two month period, although the recent decrease was larger than the 4.1-percent average November-to-January decrease over the previous five years.  Lower prices for men’s shirts and sweaters and men’s suits, sport coats, and outerwear were partially responsible for the decrease.  Despite the recent decline, apparel prices were 3.5 percent higher over the year.

The remaining indexes had higher prices from November to January.  The housing index increased 0.3 percent since November following a 0.9-percent decrease in the previous two-month period.  The recent rise was due to higher shelter prices, which advanced 0.4 percent from November to January as a result of higher prices for both published components: owners’ equivalent rent of primary residence (0.2 percent) and rent of primary residence (0.7 percent).  Both of these components also rose over the year, 3.1 and 5.2 percent, respectively.  The shelter index was 3.0 percent higher than its year-ago level.  The household furnishings and operations index declined 0.5 percent over the last two months and 1.4 percent over the year.  Prices for fuels and utilities were also lower since November (-0.2 percent) due to declines in the fuel oil and electricity indexes.  Electricity prices edged down 0.2 percent since November but rose 12.9 percent since January 2008.  Moderating the decline in fuels and utilities were higher prices for utility (piped) gas service, which advanced 1.2 percent over the last two months and 3.1 percent over the last 12 months.  The fuels and utilities index was 9.1 percent higher over the year.  The overall housing index rose 3.3 percent since last January.

Food and beverages prices edged up 0.3 percent from November to January led by higher prices for alcoholic beverages.  The 2.1-percent two-month increase in the alcoholic beverages index was the largest since May 2001.  Since last January, alcoholic beverages prices rose 3.6 percent.  The food at home index also edged up 0.3 percent since November after declining 0.5 percent in the previous two-month period; over the year, food at home prices were 4.4 percent higher.  Prices for food away from home were unchanged since November but rose 4.5 percent since January 2008.  The overall food and beverages index increased 4.3 percent over the last 12 months.

Education and communication prices rose 0.3 percent over the last two months after declining 0.3 percent in the previous two-month period.  Since January 2008, the education and communication index rose 2.9 percent.

The other goods and services index (which includes tobacco and smoking products, personal care products, personal care services, and miscellaneous personal services such as legal, funeral, and laundry and dry cleaning services) rose 0.6 percent from November to January, due in part to higher prices for cigarettes.  Over the year, the other goods and services index advanced 3.1 percent. 

Medical care prices edged up 0.2 percent over the last two months, reflecting higher prices for prescription drugs and eyeglasses and eye care services.  The medical care index rose 2.0 percent over the last 12 months.

The recreation index inched up 0.1 percent since November and was 1.2 percent higher than a year ago.

The energy index, which reflects prices for gasoline and household fuels, declined 8.0 percent since November dominated by lower gasoline prices.  Prices for fuel oil; electricity; other motor fuels; and propane, kerosene, and firewood also decreased, while utility gas prices rose.  Over the year, energy prices were down 16.3 percent.

All of the two-month decrease in the overall local index came from falling commodities prices, down 2.5 percent since November and 3.5 percent since last January.  Prices for services edged up 0.3 percent over the last two months and were up 3.4 percent over the year.

The CPI-U for the Washington-Baltimore area stood at 137.598 on the November 1996=100 reference base, which means that a market basket of goods and services that averaged $100.00 in November 1996 would have cost $137.60 in January 2009. 

The Washington-Baltimore, D.C.-Md.-Va.-W.Va., Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area (CMSA) includes the District of Columbia; Baltimore City and the counties of Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Calvert, Carroll, Charles, Frederick, Harford, Howard, Montgomery, Prince George’s, Queen Anne’s, and Washington in Maryland; the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Fredericksburg, Manassas, and Manassas Park and the counties of Arlington, Clarke, Fairfax, Fauquier, King George, Loudoun, Prince William, Rappahannock, Spotsylvania, Stafford, and Warren in Virginia; and the counties of Berkeley and Jefferson in West Virginia.

The relative importance of a component of the CPI is its expenditure or value weight expressed as a percentage of all items within an area.  Relative importance ratios show approximately how the index population distributes expenditures when the value weights are collected and represent an estimate of how consumers would distribute their expenditures as prices change over time.  Relative importance ratios cannot be used as estimates of current spending patterns or as indicators of changing consumer expenditures in the intervals between weight revisions because consumption patterns are influenced by factors—including income, variations in climate, family size, and availability of new and different kinds of goods and services—other than price change. (See table A.)

Table A (2005-2006 weights). Relative Importance of components in the Consumer Price Index: Washington-Baltimore area, December 2008
Item and group CPI-U
Expenditure category

All items

100.000

Food and beverages

14.284

Food

13.166

Food at home

6.807

Food away from home

6.359

Alcoholic beverages

1.118

Housing

48.599

Shelter

39.000

Rent of primary residence

6.474

Owners' equivalent rent of primary residence

29.560

Fuels and utilities

5.514

Household energy

4.836

Gas (piped) and electricity

4.649

Electricity

3.668

Utility (piped) gas service

0.981

Household furnishings and operations

4.085

Apparel

3.878

Transportation

12.569

Private transportation

11.317

Motor fuel

3.206

Gasoline

3.184

Medical care

5.015

Recreation

5.194

Education and communication

7.465

Other goods and services

2.996
Commodity and service group

Commodities

34.255

Commodities less food and beverages

19.971

Non durables less food and beverages

12.157

Durables

7.815

Services

65.745
Special aggregate indexes

All items less medical care

94.985

All items less shelter

61.000

Commodities less food

21.090

Nondurables

26.440

Nondurables less food

13.275

Services less rent of shelter

27.133

Services less medical care services

61.938

Energy

8.042

All items less energy

91.958

All items less food and energy

78.793
Table 1. Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U): Indexes and percent changes for selected periods, Washington-Baltimore, D.C.-Md.-Va.-W.Va. (December 1997=100 unless otherwise noted)
Expenditure category Indexes Percent change from-
Nov. 2008 Dec. 2008 Jan. 2009 Jan. 2008 Nov. 2008 Dec. 2008

All items (1)

138.547 - 137.598 1.0 -0.7 -

Food and beverages (1)

139.292 - 139.710 4.3 0.3 -

Food (1)

140.774 - 140.988 4.4 0.2 -

Food at home

137.011 137.193 137.387 4.4 0.3 0.1

Food away from home (2)

142.978 - 143.007 4.5 0.0 -

Alcoholic beverages (2)

118.852 - 121.289 3.6 2.1 -

Housing (1)

150.305 - 150.681 3.3 0.3 -

Shelter

153.741 153.437 154.345 3.0 0.4 0.6

Rent of primary residence (1) (3)

165.401 166.005 166.619 5.2 0.7 0.4

Owners' equivalent rent of primary residence (3)

153.663 153.807 153.944 3.1 0.2 0.1

Fuels and utilities

190.769 - 190.319 9.1 -0.2 -

Household energy

196.524 199.029 195.981 9.7 -0.3 -1.5

Gas (piped) and electricity (3)

189.899 192.887 190.004 10.7 0.1 -1.5

Electricity (3)

189.755 189.979 189.285 12.9 -0.2 -0.4

Utility (piped) gas service (3)

169.414 181.294 171.426 3.1 1.2 -5.4

Household furnishings and operations

100.407 - 99.950 -1.4 -0.5 -

Apparel (1)

98.842 - 91.152 3.5 -7.8 -

Transportation (1)

121.554 - 115.756 -12.9 -4.8 -

Private transportation

120.921 - 114.558 -14.0 -5.3 -

Motor fuel

181.706 144.776 145.923 -42.0 -19.7 0.8

Gasoline (all types)

181.418 144.433 145.644 -42.1 -19.7 0.8

Gasoline, unleaded regular (4)

181.357 143.880 145.639 -43.1 -19.7 1.2

Gasoline, unleaded midgrade (4)

183.401 147.566 147.945 -40.3 -19.3 0.3

Gasoline,unleaded premium (4)

187.915 149.896 150.438 -38.7 -19.9 0.4

Medical care (1)

141.933 - 142.198 2.0 0.2 -

Recreation

117.005 - 117.129 1.2 0.1 -

Education and communication

130.909 - 131.247 2.9 0.3 -

Other goods and services (1)

157.893 - 158.830 3.1 0.6 -
Commodity and service group

Commodities

120.030 - 117.011 -3.5 -2.5 -

Commodities less food and beverages

109.111 - 104.170 -8.7 -4.5 -

Nondurables less food and beverages

131.184 - 121.170 -12.2 -7.6 -

Durables

84.933 - 85.190 -3.1 0.3 -

Services

150.757 - 151.162 3.4 0.3 -
Special aggregate indexes

All items less medical care (1)

138.314 - 137.303 0.9 -0.7 -

All items less shelter

130.837 - 129.039 -0.3 -1.4 -

Commodities less food

109.647 - 105.064 -8.1 -4.2 -

Nondurables

134.790 - 130.278 -3.6 -3.3 -

Nondurables less food

130.251 - 121.370 -10.9 -6.8 -

Services less rent of shelter

148.064 - 148.193 4.0 0.1 -

Services less medical care services

151.523 - 151.937 3.5 0.3 -

Energy (1)

187.851 174.072 172.793 -16.3 -8.0 -0.7

All items less energy

134.523 - 134.464 2.7 0.0 -

All items less food and energy (1)

134.387 - 134.285 2.4 -0.1 -

Footnotes
1 For Washington-Baltimore, index is on a November 1996=100 base.
2 For Washington-Baltimore, index is on a November 1997=100 base.
3 This index series was calculated using a Laspeyres estimator. All other item stratum index series were calculated using a geometric means estimator.
4 Special index based on a substantially smaller sample.
- Data not available.
Note: Index applies to a month as a whole, not to any specific date.

Last Modified Date: September 23, 2009

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