Mid-Atlantic Information Office

Web site: www.bls.gov/ro3/

PLS - 4521
For Release:
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Information: Gerald Perrins
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Media Contact: Sheila Watkins
(215) 861-5600

Washington-Baltimore Area Consumer Price Index: March 2009 (PDF)

Retail Prices Increase for the First Time Since July 2008

Retail prices in the Washington-Baltimore area, as measured by the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U), increased 0.7 percent from January to March, following a 0.7-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 advance was led by higher prices for housing, apparel, and transportation. Prices were also higher for food and beverages and other goods and services, but were lower for recreation, education and communication, and medical care. (See chart A.) The March level of 138.620 (November 1996 = 100) was 0.4 percent higher than in March 2008—the smallest 12-month increase since publication began in November 1996. Over the same period, the core inflation rate, as measured by the all items less food and energy index, rose 2.0 percent. (See table 1.)

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

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

The housing index advanced 0.7 percent from January to March after edging up 0.3 percent in the previous two-month period. Shelter prices, which rose 1.1 percent since January, were responsible for much of this increase. Prices for both published components, owners’ equivalent rent of primary residence (0.9 percent) and rent of primary residence (0.7 percent), increased over the last two months; both components also rose over the year—up 3.3 and 5.1 percent, respectively. Since March 2008, the shelter index advanced 2.7 percent. A 3.7-percent jump in the household furnishings and operations index—the largest two-month increase since July 2000—also contributed to the advance in the housing index. Over the year, prices for household furnishings and operations rose 2.8 percent. Moderating the overall increase in the housing index, the fuels and utilities index declined 4.9 percent over the last two months. Prices for utility (piped) gas service (-22.4 percent), electricity (-1.2 percent), and fuel oil all decreased from January to March. Utility gas service prices fell 23.3 percent over the year, while electricity prices rose 10.2 percent. Altogether, the fuels and utilities index was 1.9 percent higher than year-ago levels. Since March 2008, the housing index advanced 2.6 percent.

Following a 7.8-percent seasonal decline from November to January, apparel prices rose 6.3 percent from January to March due mainly to higher prices for women’s suits and separates. The apparel index typically rises from January to March; however, the latest two-month increase was below the 8.0-percent average January-to-March increase over the previous five years. Over the year, apparel prices rose 1.3 percent.

After falling 22.4 percent from July 2008 to January 2009, the transportation index rose 1.5 percent since January due almost entirely to a 10.9-percent jump in the price of gasoline. Gasoline prices were lower over the year (-39.1 percent) due to steep declines in the second half of last year. Overall, the transportation index was 13.3 percent lower than last year.

Food and beverages prices increased 0.4 percent from January to March due to higher prices for both food at home and food away from home; each advanced 0.5 percent over the last two months. The food at home index rose 4.3 percent over the year and the food away from home index was up 4.9 percent. Prices for alcoholic beverages declined 1.0 percent since January but were 0.7 percent higher than a year ago. The overall food and beverages index was up 4.2 percent over the year.

Higher cigarette prices were mostly responsible for a 1.8-percent rise in the other goods and services index. 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) advanced 4.7 percent since March 2008.

The remaining indexes had lower prices from January to March. The recreation index fell 1.4 percent over the last two months after inching up 0.1 percent from November to January. The recent decrease was due in part to lower prices for pets and pet products. Over the year, the recreation index also declined 1.4 percent.

Education and communication prices edged down 0.2 percent since January due mostly to lower prices for personal computers and peripheral equipment. Since March 2008, the education and communication index rose 3.3 percent.

Following three consecutive bimonthly increases, the medical care index inched down 0.1 percent from January to March but was up 1.2 percent over the year.

The energy index, which reflects prices for gasoline and household fuels, inched up 0.1 percent, as lower prices for utility gas (-22.4 percent), electricity (-1.2 percent), and fuel oil nearly offset higher prices for gasoline (10.9 percent). Over the year, energy prices dropped 19.3 percent—their largest decrease since publication began in November 1996.

Seven-eighths of the two-month increase in the overall local index came from rising commodities prices, up 1.9 percent since January but down 3.2 percent since last March. The services index inched up 0.1 percent over the last two months and was 2.4 percent higher over the year.

The CPI-U for the Washington-Baltimore area stood at 138.620 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 $138.62 in March.

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 January 4, 2010

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-
Jan. 2009 Feb. 2009 Mar. 2009 Mar. 2008 Jan. 2009 Feb. 2009

All items (1)

137.598 - 138.620 0.4 0.7 -

Food and beverages (1)

139.710 - 140.264 4.2 0.4 -

Food (1)

140.988 - 141.722 4.6 0.5 -

Food at home

137.387 137.620 138.098 4.3 0.5 0.3

Food away from home (2)

143.007 - 143.757 4.9 0.5 -

Alcoholic beverages (2)

121.289 - 120.020 0.7 -1.0 -

Housing (1)

150.681 - 151.674 2.6 0.7 -

Shelter

154.345 154.867 156.085 2.7 1.1 0.8

Rent of primary residence (1) (3)

166.619 167.135 167.773 5.1 0.7 0.4

Owners' equivalent rent of primary residence (3)

153.944 153.892 155.398 3.3 0.9 1.0

Fuels and utilities

190.319 - 180.981 1.9 -4.9 -

Household energy

195.981 194.055 184.990 1.4 -5.6 -4.7

Gas (piped) and electricity (3)

190.004 188.009 179.081 2.4 -5.7 -4.7

Electricity (3)

189.285 189.743 186.944 10.2 -1.2 -1.5

Utility (piped) gas service (3)

171.426 161.463 133.062 -23.3 -22.4 -17.6

Household furnishings and operations

99.950 - 103.627 2.8 3.7 -

Apparel (1)

91.152 - 96.914 1.3 6.3 -

Transportation (1)

115.756 - 117.457 -13.3 1.5 -

Private transportation

114.558 - 117.081 -13.4 2.2 -

Motor fuel

145.923 159.466 161.628 -39.1 10.8 1.4

Gasoline (all types)

145.644 159.290 161.539 -39.1 10.9 1.4

Gasoline, unleaded regular (4)

145.639 159.616 162.315 -40.1 11.5 1.7

Gasoline, unleaded midgrade (4)

147.945 161.313 163.267 -37.3 10.4 1.2

Gasoline,unleaded premium (4)

150.438 163.440 163.902 -36.3 8.9 0.3

Medical care (1)

142.198 - 142.003 1.2 -0.1 -

Recreation

117.129 - 115.470 -1.4 -1.4 -

Education and communication

131.247 - 130.970 3.3 -0.2 -

Other goods and services (1)

158.830 - 161.662 4.7 1.8 -
Commodity and service group

Commodities

117.011 - 119.274 -3.2 1.9 -

Commodities less food and beverages

104.170 - 107.388 -8.1 3.1 -

Nondurables less food and beverages

121.170 - 126.695 -12.4 4.6 -

Durables

85.190 - 86.025 -0.9 1.0 -

Services

151.162 - 151.372 2.4 0.1 -
Special aggregate indexes

All items less medical care (1)

137.303 - 138.387 0.3 0.8 -

All items less shelter

129.039 - 129.674 -1.1 0.5 -

Commodities less food

105.064 - 108.064 -7.6 2.9 -

Nondurables

130.278 - 133.178 -3.9 2.2 -

Nondurables less food

121.370 - 126.277 -11.3 4.0 -

Services less rent of shelter

148.193 - 146.337 1.9 -1.3 -

Services less medical care services

151.937 - 152.160 2.4 0.1 -

Energy (1)

172.793 177.267 172.947 -19.3 0.1 -2.4

All items less energy

134.464 - 135.533 2.4 0.8 -

All items less food and energy (1)

134.285 - 135.413 2.0 0.8 -

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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