Fuels

High Gas, Food Prices Drive Up Consumer Price Index

Gasoline index increased nearly 49% year over year
Photograph: Shutterstock

WASHINGTON — With motorists paying a $5-per-gallon national average at the pump, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index Summary on June 10 showed that gasoline prices rose 4.1% in May, and after declining in April, overall energy prices increased 3.9%. The gasoline index increased 48.7% over the past 12 months. The food index rose 1.2% in May as the food-at-home index increased 1.4% and the food-away-from home index rose 0.7%.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI), a yardstick for inflation, measures the changes in prices paid by consumers, a weighted average of price changes for a market basket of consumer goods and services.

The CPI for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 1.0% in May on a seasonally adjusted basis after rising 0.3% in April, the agency reported on June 10. The increase was broad-based, with the indexes for gas, food and lodging being the largest contributors.

The all-items index increased 8.6% for the 12 months ending May, the largest 12-month increase since the period ending December 1981. While almost all major components increased over the month, the largest contributors were the indexes for shelter, airline fares, used cars and trucks, and new vehicles. The indexes for medical care, household furnishings and operations, recreation, and apparel also increased in May.

The energy index rose 34.6% over the last year, the largest 12-month increase since the period ending September 2005. The food index increased 10.1% for the 12-months ending May, the first increase of 10% or more since the period ending March 1981.

Energy

The energy index increased 3.9% in May after falling 2.7% in April. The gasoline index rose 4.1% in May after declining in April. (Before seasonal adjustment, gasoline prices rose 7.8% in May.) The index for natural gas rose 8.0% in May, the largest monthly increase since October 2005. The electricity index also increased in May, rising 1.3%.

The energy index rose 34.6% over the past 12 months. The gasoline index increased 48.7% over the span. The index for fuel oil more than doubled, rising 106.7%; this represents the largest increase in the history of the series, which dates to 1935. The index for electricity rose 12.0%, the largest 12-month increase since the period ending August 2006. The index for natural gas increased 30.2% over the last 12 months, the largest such increase since the period ending July 2008.

Food at Home

The food index increased 1.2% in May following a 0.9% increase the prior month. The index for food at home rose 1.4% in May, the fifth consecutive increase of at least 1.0%. All six major grocery store food group indexes rose in May. The index for dairy and related products rose 2.9%, its largest monthly increase since July 2007. The index for nonalcoholic beverages increased 1.7%, and the index for other food at home rose 1.6%.

The cereals and bakery products index increased 1.5% in May after rising 1.1% in April. The index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs rose 1.1% over the month, with the index for eggs rising 5.0%. The index for fruits and vegetables rose 0.6% in May after declining in April.

The food away from home index rose 0.7% in May after rising 0.6% in April. The index for full-service meals rose 0.8% over the month. The index for limited-service meals increased 0.7% in May after rising 0.3% in April.

The food-at-home index rose 11.9% over the last 12 months, the largest 12-month increase since the period ending April 1979. All six major grocery store food group indexes increased over the span, with five of the six rising more than 10%. The index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs increased the most, rising 14.2%, with the index for eggs increasing 32.2%.

The remaining groups saw increases ranging from 8.2% (fruits and vegetables) to 12.6% (other food at home).

Food Away From Home

The index for food away from home rose 7.4% over the last year, the largest 12-month change since the period ending November 1981. The index for full-service meals rose 9.0% over the last 12 months, and the index for limited service meals rose 7.3% over the last year. The index for food at employee sites and schools fell 30.5% over the last 12 months, reflecting widespread free lunch programs.

Consumer Price Index

  • The CPI for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 8.6% over the last 12 months to an index level of 292.296 (1982-1984 = 100). For May, the index increased 1.1% prior to seasonal adjustment.
  • The CPI for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) increased 9.3% over the last 12 months to an index level of 288.022 (1982-84=100). For the month, the index rose 1.2% prior to seasonal adjustment.

Click here to view the statistics.

The all-urban consumer group represents about 93% of the total U.S. population. It is based on the expenditures of almost all residents of urban or metropolitan areas. Not included are the spending patterns of people living in rural nonmetropolitan areas, farming families, people in the Armed Forces and those in institutions.

The CPI-W is a subset of the CPI-U based on the expenditures of households with more than one-half of the household’s income coming from clerical or wage occupations, and at least one of the household’s earners having been employed for at least 37 weeks during the previous 12 months. The CPI-W population represents about 29% of the total U.S. population.

The CPIs are based on prices of and taxes on food, clothing, shelter, fuels, transportation, doctors’ and dentists’ services, drugs and other goods and services that people buy for day-to-day living, collected each month in 75 urban areas from about 6,000 housing units and approximately 22,000 retail establishments (department stores, supermarkets, hospitals, gas stations and other types of stores and service establishments).

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