Mid-Atlantic Information Office

Web site: www.bls.gov/ro3/ PLS - 4542
For Release:
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Information: Gerald Perrins
(215) 597-3282
Media Contact: Sheila Watkins
(215) 861-5600

WASHINGTON-BALTIMORE AREA CONSUMER PRICE INDEX: MAY 2009 (PDF)

First Over-the-Year Decrease in the All Items Index

Retail prices in the Washington-Baltimore area, as measured by the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U), rose 0.5 percent from March to May, 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 dominated by higher prices for transportation and housing, as advances in three other major categories (other goods and services, education and communication, and medical care) were more than offset by declines in food and beverages, apparel, and recreation. (See chart A.) The May level of 139.311 (November 1996 = 100) was 0.2 percent lower than in May 2008—the first 12-month decline in local prices since the inception of the index in November 1996. Over the same period, the core inflation rate, as measured by the all items less food and energy index, rose 2.1 percent. (See table 1.)

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

chart data

The transportation index rose 3.0 percent from March to May due to a 13.0-percent jump in gasoline prices. Due to strong declines in the second half of last year, gasoline prices were 41.1 percent lower than last May. The gasoline index is historically subject to rapid fluctuations; within the last year, it posted a 2-month decrease of 44.9 percent in December 2008 and a 2-month increase of 17.8 percent in June 2008, as well as a 12-month decrease of 42.1 percent in January 2009 and a 12-month advance of 38.1 percent in July 2008. Overall, the transportation index was 16.0 percent lower than last May—the largest over-the-year decline since publication began in November 1996.

The housing index increased 0.4 percent since March. Shelter prices advanced 0.6 percent over the last two months as prices rose for both published components, owners’ equivalent rent of primary residence (0.6 percent) and rent of primary residence (0.5 percent). Over the year, prices for these two components were 3.3 and 4.8 percent higher, respectively. Shelter prices rose 2.7 percent since May 2008. The household furnishings and operations index inched up 0.1 percent over the last two months to a level 3.7 percent higher than a year ago. Moderating the overall rise in the housing index were lower prices for fuels and utilities, which edged down 0.3 percent since March due to lower prices for fuel oil and propane, kerosene, and firewood. Prices for utility (piped) gas service rose 0.7 percent, while electricity prices were unchanged since March. Over the year, utility gas service prices fell 29.7 percent, while electricity prices rose 11.0 percent. The fuels and utilities index was 0.2 percent lower since last May. The overall housing index rose 2.5 percent from its year-ago level.

Following a 1.8-percent advance from January to March, the other goods and services index rose 1.3 percent from March to May as an increase on the federal excise tax on cigarettes went into effect during this period. 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 5.7 percent since last May.

Education and communication prices edged up 0.2 percent since March due in part to higher prices for postage. Over the year, the education and communication index advanced 3.4 percent.

Prices for medical care inched up 0.1 percent over the last two months and were 1.0 percent higher since May 2008.

The remaining indexes had lower prices from March to May. Prices for food and beverages fell 0.8 percent since March due to price declines for both food at home (-1.5 percent) and alcoholic beverages (-2.0 percent). Over the year, food at home prices rose 2.5 percent, while prices for alcoholic beverages fell 0.9 percent. Prices for food away from home inched up 0.1 percent since March to a level 4.1 percent higher than a year ago. The overall food and beverages index advanced 2.9 percent over the year.

Following a 6.3-percent seasonal increase from January to March, apparel prices fell 0.7 percent from March to May, led by lower prices for jewelry and women’s outerwear. The recent decline, which was moderated by higher prices for women’s dresses, was smaller than the typical March-to-May decline; over the previous five years, apparel prices decreased an average of 3.0 percent during this time period. Since May 2008, apparel prices rose 5.9 percent.

The recreation index inched down 0.1 percent over the last two months. Over the year, the recreation index declined 2.5 percent—the largest decrease since the inception of this index in December 1997.

The energy index, which reflects prices for gasoline and household fuels, advanced 4.7 percent since March due to a 13.0-percent increase in prices for gasoline. Utility gas prices were also higher (0.7 percent) from March to May, but were offset by lower prices for fuel oil and propane, kerosene, and firewood. Over the year, energy prices dropped 22.8 percent—their largest decrease since publication began in November 1996.

About three-fifths of the two-month increase in the overall local index came from rising prices for services, up 0.4 percent since March and 2.0 percent over the year. The commodities index was also higher over the last two months, up 0.6 percent, but was 4.4 percent lower since May 2008.

The CPI-U for the Washington-Baltimore area stood at 139.311 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 $139.31 in May.

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-
Mar. 2009 Apr. 2009 May 2009 May 2008 Mar. 2009 Apr. 2009

All items (1)

138.620 - 139.311 -0.2 0.5 -

Food and beverages (1)

140.264 - 139.133 2.9 -0.8 -

Food (1)

141.722 - 140.720 3.3 -0.7 -

Food at home

138.098 135.515 136.050 2.5 -1.5 0.4

Food away from home (2)

143.757 - 143.937 4.1 0.1 -

Alcoholic beverages (2)

120.020 - 117.660 -0.9 -2.0 -

Housing (1)

151.674 - 152.349 2.5 0.4 -

Shelter

156.085 156.131 156.979 2.7 0.6 0.5

Rent of primary residence (1) (3)

167.773 168.139 168.638 4.8 0.5 0.3

Owners' equivalent rent of primary residence (3)

155.398 155.658 156.272 3.3 0.6 0.4

Fuels and utilities

180.981 - 180.493 -0.2 -0.3 -

Household energy

184.990 187.876 184.157 -1.0 -0.5 -2.0

Gas (piped) and electricity (3)

179.081 182.092 179.359 0.7 0.2 -1.5

Electricity (3)

186.944 185.888 187.022 11.0 0.0 0.6

Utility (piped) gas service (3)

133.062 149.318 133.977 -29.7 0.7 -10.3

Household furnishings and operations

103.627 - 103.760 3.7 0.1 -

Apparel (1)

96.914 - 96.228 5.9 -0.7 -

Transportation (1)

117.457 - 120.989 -16.0 3.0 -

Private transportation

117.081 - 121.086 -16.0 3.4 -

Motor fuel

161.628 169.481 182.489 -41.1 12.9 7.7

Gasoline (all types)

161.539 169.413 182.478 -41.1 13.0 7.7

Gasoline, unleaded regular (4)

162.315 170.172 184.339 -41.9 13.6 8.3

Gasoline, unleaded midgrade (4)

163.267 171.589 182.607 -39.7 11.8 6.4

Gasoline,unleaded premium (4)

163.902 171.296 183.179 -39.0 11.8 6.9

Medical care (1)

142.003 - 142.187 1.0 0.1 -

Recreation

115.470 - 115.334 -2.5 -0.1 -

Education and communication

130.970 - 131.296 3.4 0.2 -

Other goods and services (1)

161.662 - 163.730 5.7 1.3 -
Commodity and service group

Commodities

119.274 - 119.989 -4.4 0.6 -

Commodities less food and beverages

107.388 - 109.136 -9.0 1.6 -

Nondurables less food and beverages

126.695 - 130.454 -13.4 3.0 -

Durables

86.025 - 85.718 -1.2 -0.4 -

Services

151.372 - 152.048 2.0 0.4 -
Special aggregate indexes

All items less medical care (1)

138.387 - 139.104 -0.3 0.5 -

All items less shelter

129.674 - 130.257 -2.1 0.4 -

Commodities less food

108.064 - 109.612 -8.6 1.4 -

Nondurables

133.178 - 134.362 -5.3 0.9 -

Nondurables less food

126.277 - 129.477 -12.5 2.5 -

Services less rent of shelter

146.337 - 146.708 1.0 0.3 -

Services less medical care services

152.160 - 152.873 2.1 0.5 -

Energy (1)

172.947 177.842 181.064 -22.8 4.7 1.8

All items less energy

135.533 - 135.754 2.3 0.2 -

All items less food and energy (1)

135.413 - 135.831 2.1 0.3 -

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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