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The Consumer Price Index and Inflation - Graph Components of the CPI

Author(s): 
Elizabeth B. Appelbaum

Inflation rates have been moderate in the past decade, always positive, but never reaching 4%, and generally under 3%. However, prices for some categories have behaved differently from the general CPI.  Figures 13 through 16 were all made on the Web site of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Each is for 12-month percent change in prices for every month from January 1993 to January 2003.  In order, these graphs represent

  • The CPI itself (Figure 13). This graph may be misleading because the vertical axis does not include 0.

  • Two utilities used in homes: gas and electricity (Figure 14). Notice that this index is much more volatile than the CPI, varying from –9.3% in February 2002 to 21.6% in January 2001.

  • Apparel (Figure 15), which has shown deflation more often than inflation in this period.

  • College tuition and fees (Figure 16) -- note that, as was the case with Figure 13, the vertical axis does not include 0. How do the rates in this category compare with the general CPI? Can you think of a reason the vertical axes in Figures 13 and 16 don't include 0?

Figure 13. Consumer Price Index, 12 Month Percent Change.
Chart from Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed May 1, 2003.

 

Figure 14. Utility Prices: Gas (piped) and Electricity, 12 Month Percent Change.
Chart from Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed May 1, 2003.

 

Figure 15. Apparel Prices, 12 Month Percent Change.
Chart from Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed May 1, 2003.

 

Figure 16. College Tuition and Fees, 12 Month Percent Change.
Chart from Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed May 1, 2003.

 

Try getting these graphs and their data tables yourself. As before, go to www.bls.gov, Get Detailed Statistics, CPI—All Urban Consumers (Current Series), and Create Customized tables (One Screen). Then do these steps:

  1. Area U.S. city average.

  2. Select one or more items: All items.

  3. Not Seasonally Adjusted.

  4. Add to Your Selection.

Now go back to Step 2 and click on Gas (piped) and electricity, then Add to Your Selection. Similarly select Apparel and College tuition and fees. Click Retrieve Data.

Go to More Formatting Options. Use the default time range, which yields the 10 most recent years. (For the current year, the most recent month is used.) Use the default All Time Periods. Uncheck Original Data Value. Check 12 Months Percent Change, include graphs, and Retrieve Data.

JOMA

Journal of Online Mathematics and its Applications

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