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Consumer prices and inflation rate in the U.S. - Statistics & Facts

Consumer prices are the prices that people pay for goods and services. The change in consumer price level is an important economic indicator. The most prominent index of consumer price changes in the United States is the Consumer Price Index, published on a monthly basis by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Consumer Price Index

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is compiled by averaging prices of goods and services across urban or metropolean areas and comparing this aggregate value to the base value. The CPI basket includes food and beverages, housing, apparel, transportation, medical care, recreation, education and communication, and other goods and services. Releases of new CPI data are closely scrutinized in the U.S. as the index is the primary indicator of inflation in the United States and hence influences financial decisions on many levels.

Chained Consumer Price Index

The Consumer Price Index is often used as a measure of changes in the cost of living. Although it serves well as a rough estimate in this context, it is not completely accurate. Consumers tend to react to price changes immediately, often by substituting more expensive goods with cheaper ones. As the CPI is based on the prices from the past, it does not take this factor into consideration. That is why the Bureau of Labor Statistics introduced the Chained Consumer Price Index in 2002. The chained CPI is based on the same basket of goods, but it also measures the prices of substitute items. It is hence considered to be a more accurate indicator of the actual cost of living.

Price level in the U.S.

Consumer prices in the United States have been rising continuously in the last five decades. The only exception was the financial crisis in 2009 when the prices declined for the first time since 1955. The price level in the United States more than doubled between 1984 and 2020.

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