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Washington-Baltimore Area Consumer Price Index – March 2010 (PDF)

Largest Ever 12-Month Decrease in Prices for Food and Beverages

Retail prices in the Washington-Baltimore area, as measured by the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U), rose 0.4 percent from January to March following a 0.3-percent increase in the previous bimonthly period, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Sheila Watkins, the Bureau’s regional commissioner, noted that while higher prices for apparel, housing, and medical care led the recent advance, most major categories recorded increases over the last two months. Prices were lower in only the food and beverages and education and communication categories. (See chart 1.) The March level of 141.741 (November 1996 = 100) was 2.3 percent higher than in March 2009. Over the same period, the core inflation rate, as measured by the all items less food and energy index, rose 1.5 percent. (See table 1.)

Chart 1. 2-month and 12-month percent changes ended March 2010 for the major categories of the CPI-U for the Washington-Baltimore area, not seasonally adjusted

2-month and 12-month percent changes ended March 2010 for the major categories of the CPI-U for the Washington-Baltimore area, not seasonally adjusted

Chart Data

Following normal seasonal patterns, apparel prices advanced 7.2 percent from January to March after falling 2.2 percent in the previous two-month period. Due to four decreases in the last six bimonthly periods, the apparel index was 1.4 percent lower than its year-ago level.

The housing index edged up 0.2 percent from January to March, dominated by higher prices for shelter. The shelter index (which includes rent of primary residence, lodging away from home, owners’ equivalent rent of residences, and tenants’ and household insurance) increased 0.3 percent since January and 0.2 percent over the year. Prices for household furnishings and operations edged up 0.2 percent over the last two months but decreased 4.2 percent since March 2009. Moderating the overall advance in the housing index, prices for fuels and utilities fell 0.7 percent over the last two months as prices declined for both electricity (-1.0 percent) and utility (piped) gas service (-2.5 percent). Electricity prices were also lower over the year (-1.4 percent), while utility gas service prices registered their first 12-month increase (5.3 percent) since January 2009. The overall fuels and utilities index advanced 1.2 percent over the last 12 months. Since last March, the housing index inched down 0.1 percent.

The medical care index rose 1.2 percent over the last two months. Prices for medical care advanced in each of the last six bimonthly periods and were 4.7 percent higher since March 2009.

The transportation index increased 0.3 percent since January, led by higher prices for gasoline. The gasoline index rose 1.3 percent from January to March and 41.2 percent over the year. Higher prices for motor vehicle maintenance and servicing and used cars and trucks also contributed to the two-month increase in the transportation index. Since last March, transportation prices advanced 14.4 percent.

The recreation index rose 0.4 percent from January to March after edging down 0.2 percent during the previous two-month period. Over the year, recreation prices advanced 2.3 percent.

The other goods and services index increased for the fourth consecutive bimonthly period, up 2.9 percent since July and 0.3 percent since January. Over the last 12 months, 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 3.5 percent.

The remaining indexes had lower prices from January to March. The food and beverages index edged down 0.2 percent over the last two months due to lower prices for food away from home and alcoholic beverages. Food away from home prices fell 0.8 percent and alcoholic beverages prices, 2.6 percent since January; the recent two-month declines in both indexes were the largest since their inceptions in November 1997. Over the year, prices for food away from home rose 0.6 percent, while those for alcoholic beverages fell 0.8 percent. Moderating the overall decline in the food and beverages index were higher prices for food at home, up 0.6 percent over the last two months. Prices for food at home decreased 2.0 percent since last March. The overall food and beverages index fell 0.7 percent over the year—the largest 12-month decline since the inception of the index in November 1997.

Education and communication prices inched down 0.1 percent since January. Due to five advances in the last six bimonthly periods, the education and communication index rose 3.0 percent over the year.

The energy index, which reflects prices for gasoline and household fuels, edged up 0.2 percent over the last two months. The recent advance was dominated by higher prices for gasoline (1.3 percent); prices were also higher for fuel oil and propane, kerosene, and firewood. Lower prices for electricity (-1.0 percent) and utility (piped) gas service (-2.5 percent) helped to moderate the two-month increase in the energy index. Over the year, energy prices jumped 16.1 percent.

The two-month advance in the overall local index reflected higher prices for both commodities and services, up 0.7 percent and 0.3 percent, respectively. Since last March, commodities prices increased 3.2 percent and services prices, 1.7 percent.

The CPI-U for the Washington-Baltimore area stood at 141.741 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 $141.74 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 (2007-2008 weights). Relative Importance of components in the Consumer Price Index: Washington-Baltimore area, December 2009
Item and group CPI-U
Expenditure category

All items

100.000

Food and beverages

14.378

Food

13.205

Food at home

7.037

Food away from home

6.174

Alcoholic beverages

1.173

Housing

45.383

Shelter

36.603

Rent of primary residence

6.066

Owners' equivalent rent of residences

29.416

Owners' equivalent rent of primary residence

28.000

Fuels and utilities

4.486

Household energy

3.807

Gas (piped) and electricity

3.629

Electricity

2.959

Utility (piped) gas service

0.670

Household furnishings and operations

4.289

Apparel

3.594

Transportation

15.107

Private transportation

13.624

Motor fuel

3.923

Gasoline

3.807

Medical care

5.492

Recreation

5.710

Education and communication

7.047

Other goods and services

3.288
Commodity and service group

Commodities

36.347

Commodities less food and beverages

21.965

Nondurables less food and beverages

13.199

Durables

8.764

Services

63.659
Special aggregate indexes

All items less medical care

94.507

All items less shelter

63.400

Commodities less food

23.137

Nondurables

27.578

Nondurables less food

14.371

Services less rent of shelter

27.395

Services less medical care services

59.368

Energy

7.729

All items less energy

92.265

All items less food and energy

79.062
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. 2010 Feb. 2010 Mar. 2010 Mar. 2009 Jan. 2010 Feb. 2010

All items (1)

141.124 - 141.741 2.3 0.4 -

Food and beverages (1)

139.579 - 139.242 -0.7 -0.2 -

Food (1)

140.757 - 140.707 -0.7 0.0 -

Food at home

134.477 135.033 135.300 -2.0 0.6 0.2

Food away from home (2)

145.778 - 144.674 0.6 -0.8 -

Alcoholic beverages (2)

122.175 - 119.013 -0.8 -2.6 -

Housing (1)

151.224 - 151.484 -0.1 0.2 -

Shelter

155.895 156.065 156.323 0.2 0.3 0.2

Rent of primary residence (1) (3)

170.786 171.470 171.782 2.4 0.6 0.2

Owners' equivalent rent of residences (3) (4)

156.492 156.454 156.317 0.6 -0.1 -0.1

Owners' equivalent rent of primary residence (3) (4)

156.497 156.454 156.319 0.6 -0.1 -0.1

Fuels and utilities

184.353 - 183.125 1.2 -0.7 -

Household energy

187.028 158.974 185.106 0.1 -1.0 16.4

Gas (piped) and electricity (3)

180.976 152.281 178.618 -0.3 -1.3 17.3

Electricity (3)

186.163 149.438 184.234 -1.4 -1.0 23.3

Utility (piped) gas service (3)

143.673 144.918 140.143 5.3 -2.5 -3.3

Household furnishings and operations

99.124 - 99.307 -4.2 0.2 -

Apparel (1)

89.147 - 95.599 -1.4 7.2 -

Transportation (1)

133.987 - 134.345 14.4 0.3 -

Private transportation

134.276 - 134.400 14.8 0.1 -

Motor fuel

225.022 224.249 228.001 41.1 1.3 1.7

Gasoline (all types)

225.039 224.252 228.049 41.2 1.3 1.7

Gasoline, unleaded regular (5)

228.366 227.837 231.357 42.5 1.3 1.5

Gasoline, unleaded midgrade (5)

223.303 222.113 226.787 38.9 1.6 2.1

Gasoline, unleaded premium (5)

223.358 221.812 225.991 37.9 1.2 1.9

Medical care (1)

146.888 - 148.715 4.7 1.2 -

Recreation

117.644 - 118.158 2.3 0.4 -

Education and communication

134.992 - 134.906 3.0 -0.1 -

Other goods and services (1)

166.872 - 167.363 3.5 0.3 -
Commodity and service group

Commodities

122.339 - 123.142 3.2 0.7 -

Commodities less food and beverages

112.569 - 113.969 6.1 1.2 -

Nondurables less food and beverages

136.617 - 139.744 10.3 2.3 -

Durables

86.372 - 86.081 0.1 -0.3 -

Services

153.501 - 153.980 1.7 0.3 -
Special aggregate indexes

All items less medical care (1)

140.753 - 141.301 2.1 0.4 -

All items less shelter

133.629 - 134.338 3.6 0.5 -

Commodities less food

113.103 - 114.292 5.8 1.1 -

Nondurables

137.504 - 138.841 4.3 1.0 -

Nondurables less food

135.503 - 138.071 9.3 1.9 -

Services less rent of shelter

151.676 - 152.223 4.0 0.4 -

Services less medical care services

154.049 - 154.403 1.5 0.2 -

Energy (1)

200.443 185.421 200.797 16.1 0.2 8.3

All items less energy

136.473 - 137.100 1.2 0.5 -

All items less food and energy (1)

136.661 - 137.402 1.5 0.5 -

Footnotes
(1) For Washington-Baltimore, indexes on a November 1996=100 base.
(2) For Washington-Baltimore, indexes 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) This index series underwent a change in composition in January 2010. The expenditure class now includes weight from secondary residences and has been re-titled "Owners' equivalent rent of residences." The item stratum "Owners' equivalent rent of primary residence" excludes secondary residences.
(5) 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: April 15, 2010

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