U.S. December Consumer Price Index Report (Text)

Following is the text of the December consumer prices from the Labor Department.

Consumer Price Index - December 2011

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) was unchanged in December on a seasonally adjusted basis, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 3.0 percent before seasonal adjustment.

Similar to last month, the energy index declined in December and offset increases in other indexes. The gasoline index declined for the third month in a row and the household energy index declined as well. The food index rose in December, with the index for food at home turning up after declining last month.

The index for all items less food and energy increased 0.1 percent in December after rising 0.2 percent in November. The indexes for shelter, recreation, medical care, and tobacco all posted increases, while the indexes for used cars and trucks, new vehicles, and apparel all declined.

The all items index has risen 3.0 percent over the last 12 months, a decline from last month's 3.4 percent figure. Recent declines in the energy index have brought its 12-month change down to 6.6 percent from 19.3 percent in September. The 12-month change in the index for all items less food and energy held at 2.2 percent, while the 12-month change in the food index edged up from 4.6 percent to 4.7 percent.

Year in Review

The CPI rose 3.0 percent in 2011 after a 1.5 percent increase in 2010. This was the largest December-December increase since 2007.

The energy index increased 6.6 percent in 2011, a deceleration from the 2010 increase of 7.7 percent. The gasoline index, which rose 13.8 percent in 2010, increased 9.9 percent in 2011. In contrast, the household energy index accelerated in 2011, rising 1.8 percent after a 0.8 percent increase in 2010. The fuel oil index rose 18.0 percent and the electricity index increased 2.2 percent, although the index for natural gas declined for the third straight year, falling 3.7 percent.

The index for food accelerated in 2011, rising 4.7 percent compared to a 1.5 percent increase in 2010. The index for food at home rose 6.0 percent in 2011 compared to 1.7 percent in 2010. All six major grocery store food group indexes rose in 2011, with increases ranging from 2.3 percent (fruits and vegetables) to 8.1 percent (dairy and related products). The index for food away from home rose 2.9 percent in 2011 after increasing 1.3 percent in 2010.

The index for all items less food and energy also accelerated in 2011, increasing 2.2 percent after its historical low 2010 increase of 0.8 percent. This was the largest increase since 2007. Several indexes turned up in 2011. The apparel index rose 4.6 percent after a 1.1 percent decline the previous year. Similarly, the new vehicles index rose 3.2 percent in 2011 after a slight decline in 2010. The indexes for recreation and household furnishings and operations also rose in 2011 after declining in 2010. A number of other indexes rose more quickly in 2011 than in 2010. The shelter index accelerated notably, advancing 1.9 percent in 2011 after rising only 0.4 percent the previous year. The indexes for used cars and trucks, medical care, education, and personal care also rose more quickly in 2011 than in 2010. In contrast, the indexes for tobacco and airline fare posted smaller increases in 2011 than 2010.

Consumer Price Index Data for December 2011 Food

The food index rose 0.2 percent in December after a 0.1 percent increase in November. The index for food at home, which fell 0.1 percent in November, rose 0.3 percent in December as four of the six major grocery store food group indexes increased. The index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs rose the most, increasing 0.7 percent, even though the index for eggs declined. Also rising in December were the indexes for cereals and bakery products and for nonalcoholic beverages, each increasing 0.3 percent, while the index for other food at home rose 0.4 percent. In contrast, the fruits and vegetables index decreased 0.5 percent in December as the fresh vegetables index fell 1.4 percent, and the index for dairy and related products declined 0.1 percent. The index for food away from home, which rose 0.3 percent in November, increased 0.2 percent in December.

Energy

The energy index declined for the third month in a row, falling 1.3 percent in December as all of its major component indexes declined. The gasoline index, which fell 2.4 percent in November, declined 2.0 percent in December. (Before seasonal adjustment, gasoline prices fell 4.0 percent in December.) The household energy index also declined, falling 0.4 percent in December, the same decrease as November. The index for fuel oil fell 1.0 percent, the natural gas index declined 0.8 percent, and the electricity index decreased 0.2 percent.

All items less food and energy

The index for all items less food and energy increased 0.1 percent in December after rising 0.2 percent in November. The shelter index rose 0.2 percent for the third month in a row. The rent index increased 0.3 percent and the index for owners' equivalent rent advanced 0.2 percent. The medical care index continued to rise significantly; its 0.4 percent increase in December was the third in a row of at least that size. The medical care services index rose 0.4 percent with the hospital services index up 0.5 percent. The recreation index increased 0.4 percent in December and the indexes for tobacco, household furnishings and operations, and airline fares posted increases as well. In contrast, the index for used cars and trucks declined for the fourth month in a row, falling 0.9 percent, while the index for new vehicles fell 0.2 percent, its third consecutive decline. The apparel index fell 0.1 percent in December after increasing in seven of the last eight months. The index for personal care, which rose 0.6 percent in November, was unchanged in December.

Not seasonally adjusted CPI measures

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 3.0 percent over the last 12 months to an index level of 225.672 (1982-84=100). For the month, the index declined 0.2 percent prior to seasonal adjustment.

The Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) increased 3.2 percent over the last 12 months to an index level of 222.166 (1982-84=100). For the month, the index declined 0.3 percent prior to seasonal adjustment.

The Chained Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (C-CPI-U) increased 2.8 percent over the last 12 months. For the month, the index declined 0.3 percent on a not seasonally adjusted basis. Please note that the indexes for the post- 2009 period are subject to revision.

The Consumer Price Index for January 2012 is scheduled to be released on Friday, February 17, 2012, at 8:30 a.m. (EST).

Redesigning the Consumer Price Index (CPI) Press Release Tables

The format of the tables contained in the CPI News Release will change beginning with the CPI News Release for March, 2012, which will be issued on Friday, April 13, 2012. News Release tables are currently available as part of the News Release pdf and html files, and independently in html format. The new tables will also be available in Excel format. In addition, the BLS will begin issuing monthly companion Excel files, which will contain additional index level and CPI-W information.

These tables were made available for public comment during October 2011. In response to the public comments, the BLS will issue Excel files each month, as companions to the News Release. There will be CPI-U and CPI-W files, and in addition to the data contained in the News Release tables, the Excel files will contain index values. Samples of the companion Excel files will be available with the February CPI News Release in March 2012. Samples of the new CPI press release tables are available now at http://www.bls.gov/cpi/mock-ups.htm.

In August 2009, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) restructured the text of the CPI press release to focus on the price movements of three broad expenditure categories, namely Food, Energy, and All items less food and energy. Table A within the CPI press release text was also updated in August 2009 to reflect this new structure. Before August 2009, the text of the CPI press release had focused on eight CPI `major groups' (Food and beverages; Housing; Apparel; Transportation; Medical care; Recreation; Education and communication; and Other goods and services).

While the text of the CPI press release was restructured in 2009, seven additional CPI press release tables continued to be published using the eight major groups. BLS has redesigned these press release tables, to reflect the focus on Food, Energy, and All items less food and energy. Within these three broad categories, CPI item series will be further divided into commodities and services. The CPI News Release will contain these updated tables beginning with the March 2012 News Release, to be issued on Friday, April 13, 2012.

Beyond the redesign in the structure of the CPI press release tables, several other improvements to these tables have been made.

The new Table 1 gives a summary of the index series which typically contribute to changes in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U).

The new Table 2 will show the full publication stub using the new structure for the CPI-U, including 11 new items series that were created to augment the redesign in the publication structure.

Table 3 will show aggregate item series (e.g., Transportation) that do not fall under the Food, Energy, and All items less food and energy structure.

Table 4 will show the All items indexes at the local, regional, and city-size class levels.

Table 5 will show the Chained Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (C-CPI-U), and presents a history of annual percentage changes in the C-CPI-U compared to the CPI- U.

Table 6 will focus on 1-month seasonally adjusted changes in the CPI-U, while table 7 will focus on 12-month not seasonally adjusted changes.

Tables 6 and 7 will present three additional pieces of data to help users better interpret index changes. First, these tables will show the `effect' each item has on the price change for All items. For example, if the effect of food is 0.4, and the index for All items increased 1.2 percent, it can be said that increases in food prices accounted for 0.4 / 1.2, or 33.3 percent, of the increase in overall prices for that period. Said another way, had food prices been unchanged, the All items index only would have increased 0.8 percent (or 1.2 percent for All items, minus the 0.4 effect for Food). Effects can be negative as well. For example, if the effect of food was a negative 0.1, and the All items index rose 0.5 percent, the All items index actually would have been 0.1 percent higher (or 0.6 percent) had food prices been unchanged.

Second, standard errors for percent changes will be shown on tables 6 and 7. Confidence intervals for statistics can be created using standard errors; e.g., roughly 95% confidence intervals can be constructed using two standard errors. For example, if an item increased 3.7 percent, and its standard error was 0.6 percent, the 95% confidence interval for that price change can be said to be 3.7 percent plus or minus two standard errors, or 3.7 percent plus or minus 1.2 percent.

Finally, each item series in tables 6 and 7 will show the last time that item had a price change as large (or as small) as the percent change published that period. For example, if bananas rose 3.7 percent, and that was its largest increase since November 2007, that would be noted in the new tables.

In addition, most of the existing tables show the `relative importance', or weight, of each item category as of the previous December. The relative importance columns in the new tables will be improved in that they will be updated monthly to reflect the change in relative prices over time.

Finally, there will no longer be any press release tables that focus on the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). That said, the CPI-W All items index level and percent changes will still be noted in the text of the press release, and a companion Excel file with CPI-W information will be available.

Expenditure Weight Update

Effective with the release of the January 2012 CPI on February 17, 2012, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) will update the consumption expenditure weights in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) and Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI- W) to the 2009-10 period. The updated expenditure weights for these indexes will replace the 2007-2008 weights that were introduced effective with the January 2010 CPI release. As originally announced by BLS in December 1998, CPI expenditure weights will continue to be updated at two-year intervals.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Middleton in Washington cmiddleton2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Marco Babic at mbabic@bloomberg.net

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