Overview of BLS Statistics on Inflation and Prices

Inflation can be defined as the overall general upward price movement of goods and services in an economy. BLS has various indexes that measure different aspects of inflation.

BLS statistics related to inflation:

Consumer Price Index

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) program produces monthly data on changes in the prices paid by urban consumers for a representative basket of goods and services. There are separate indexes for two groups or populations of consumers:

  • The CPI for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) is the index most often reported by the national media.
  • The CPI for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) is the index most often used for wage escalation agreements.

The CPI inflation calculator allows customers to calculate the value of current dollars in an earlier period, or to calculate the current value of dollar amounts from years ago.

Consumer price indexes often are used to escalate or adjust payments for rents, wages, alimony, child support and other obligations that may be affected by changes in the cost of living. There is a fact sheet explaining how to use the CPI for escalating contracts..

A new price index called the Chained Consumer Price Index (C-CPI-U) is now available. This new measure is designed to be a closer approximation to a "cost-of-living" index than the CPI-U or CPI-W.

Producer Price Indexes

The Producer Price Indexes (PPIs) are a family of indexes that measure changes in the selling prices received by domestic producers of goods and services. They formerly were referred to as Wholesale Price Indexes. When the PPIs are released, the news media will most often report the percentage change in the index for Finished Goods.

Producer Price Indexes also can be used in escalation contracts. A fact sheet explaining the details is available.

Import and Export Prices

The International Price Program measures change in the prices of imports and exports of nonmilitary goods between the United States and the rest of the world.

Employment Cost Trends

This program publishes quarterly statistics that measure change in labor costs (also called employment costs or compensation costs) over time; quarterly data measuring the level of costs per hour worked are also published. Indexes are available for total labor costs, and separately for wages and salaries and for benefit costs. Some information is available by region, major industry group, major occupational group, and bargaining status.

Contract Escalation

Consumer Price Indexes, Producer Price Indexes, and the Employment Cost Index may be used to escalate contracts. See the Contract Escalation page for more information.

International Consumer Price Indexes (CPIs)

Consumer price indexes as published by individual countries, unadjusted for comparability, as well as harmonized indexes for a smaller selection of countries, are available on the Foreign Labor Statistics Tables page.

Price and Index Number Research

The Price and Index Number Research (PINR) division conducts research to strengthen and improve existing price and expenditure measurement concepts and techniques and enhance the analytical usefulness of BLS programs.


Last Modified Date: July 19, 2008