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Tag Archives: Exports

Inflation, as Seen through the Bake Shop Window

At BLS, we are always looking for new ways to help readers understand the latest economic data. As measures of price change have garnered a heaping amount of financial coverage lately, the pastry chefs who publish our monthly inflation figures are experimenting with some new recipes to highlight current results. Our first attempt, straight out of the fryer: an inflation doughnut, in honor of National Doughnut Day.

We don’t mean to sugarcoat the impact of inflation on economic markets and household budgets, as high inflation can have disruptive and acrid consequences. Instead, we aim here to showcase the statistics in a window display that highlights the data in a fresh perspective. We start with an inflation doughnut, which is divided into sections to compare how many prices are increasing (inflation), decreasing (deflation), or remaining unchanged. You can display an inflation doughnut for just one month (think of it as just a doughnut hole) or over a longer time like a year or more (like a baker’s dozen). For this price change doughnut, we show all the ingredients to overall price change—the increases, the decreases, and the components with no change. Let’s look at an inflation doughnut example from the Consumer Price Index.

Consumer Price Index: Distribution of 12-month price changes for all goods and services, April 2022

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

But not everyone likes doughnuts, including my editors, who seem partial to crullers and other more linear pastries. Apparently, these circular graphics can be hard to understand. So, the charts below focus on the same data, but with a different look. Nonetheless, the doughnut references are too good to pass up.

As a reminder, BLS has three monthly price programs, each of which produces many different estimates. By tracking each of these programs, you can learn more about price transmission through the production process. (Hmm, that sounds like a topic for a future blog.) Here’s a brief reminder about the BLS price programs:

  • The Import/Export Price Indexes contain data on changes in prices of nonmilitary goods and services traded between the United States and the rest of the world. As the new kid on the block, import and export price indexes are like those new gourmet doughnuts, perhaps topped with bacon and maple syrup.
  • The Producer Price Index (PPI) measures the average change over time in the selling prices received by domestic producers for their output. As the oldest price index program, the PPI is the workhorse, your basic powdered doughnut. It’s been around for years but still hits the spot.
  • The Consumer Price Index (CPI) measures the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services. The CPI is the doughnut on the top shelf that gets most of the attention, maybe with chocolate frosting and multi-colored sprinkles.

Now that your mouth is watering, let’s look at the data.

Starting with import and export price data, we can see that nearly half of import item prices were higher over the past year, with 48 percent of all imports prices exhibiting inflationary trends; for imports of consumer goods, 42 percent had higher prices. We see similar trends  among exports.

Import Price Index: Distribution of 12-month price changes for all imports and import consumer goods, April 2022

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

With the PPI, we focus on the share of industries showing price changes. Data are available for three different sectors. In keeping with the doughnut theme, goods-producing industries represent the jelly filling, with 98 percent of these industries exhibiting inflation over the past year. In the center, or the cake, 86 percent of service-providing industries were inflationary. Finally, the strawberry glaze on the outside looks at construction industries, with all showing inflation.

Producer Price Index: Distribution of 12-month price changes for industry groups, April 2022

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

Finally, we look again at data for the CPI, but this time our doughnuts are flattened. Here we show the share of items in the market basket that experience rising or falling prices or no change. As a doughnut, the “core” CPI, that is, all items less food and energy, is somewhat vanilla, like Boston Cream filling. Over the past 12 months, about three-quarters of core items have shown price increases, 19 percent have shown price decreases, and a small percentage show no change. In contrast, the prices for food and energy pack more zest, like a chocolate glaze, showing considerable inflation—nearly 89 percent of items—with only a small amount of deflation. The food and energy inflation may be influenced by rising energy prices, perhaps related to an increase in late-night drives to the local bakery.

Consumer Price Index: Distribution of 12-month price changes for core and food and energy goods and services, April 2022

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

We hope our tour of the pastry shop has added some spice to your understanding of price change statistics. For more traditional graphics showing trends in BLS data, check out the Graphics for Economic News Releases page on our website. Next time, try the pumpkin spice.

Consumer Price Index: Distribution of 12-month price changes for all goods and services, April 2022
IndexInflationDeflationNo change

CPI for All Urban Consumers

78.016.55.5
Import Price Index: Distribution of 12-month price changes for all imports and import consumer goods, April 2022
CategoryInflationDeflationNo change

All imports

47.713.738.6

Import consumer goods

42.012.845.3
Producer Price Index: Distribution of 12-month price changes for industry groups, April 2022
Industry groupInflationDeflationNo change

Goods-producing industries

9811

Service-providing industries

8659

Construction industries

10000
Consumer Price Index: Distribution of 12-month price changes for core and food and energy goods and services, April 2022
CategoryInflationDeflationNo change

Core

74.219.06.8

Food and energy

88.69.42.0

How Timing and World Events Affect Price Statistics

Rising prices have certainly been in the news lately, and we have received a lot of questions about BLS price statistics. Some questions, however, are “evergreen.” Even in times of moderate price changes, BLS staff often hear that the Consumer Price Index (CPI) doesn’t reflect an individual’s experience. We address this concern and a wide range of other issues in our Questions and Answers about the CPI:

Q. Whose buying habits does the CPI reflect?

A. The CPI does not necessarily measure your own experience with price change. It is important to understand that BLS bases the market baskets and pricing procedures for the CPI-U and CPI-W populations on the experience of the relevant average household, not of any specific family or individual. For example, if you spend a larger-than-average share of your budget on medical expenses, and medical care costs are increasing more rapidly than the cost of other items in the CPI market basket, your personal rate of inflation may exceed the increase in the CPI. Conversely, if you heat your home with solar energy, and fuel prices are rising more rapidly than other items, you may experience less inflation than the general population does. A national average reflects millions of individual price experiences; it seldom mirrors a particular consumer’s experience.

Beyond the differences in individual spending habits, price statistics are affected by a variety of factors, including world events and the timing of price data collection. To explore these factors, we will look beyond the CPI to all BLS price indexes. We’ll focus on the price of oil and related items. Let’s start with a reminder of what is included in the BLS family of price indexes and look at how oil-related prices changed in March.

  • The Consumer Price Index measures the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services.
    • The CPI for gasoline (all types) rose 18.3 percent in March and 48.0 percent over the last 12 months.
    • The CPI for energy rose 11.0 percent in March and 32.0 percent over the last 12 months.
  • The Producer Price Index (PPI) measures the average change over time in the selling prices domestic producers receive for their output.
    • The PPI for crude petroleum rose 7.2 percent in March and 62.2 percent over the last 12 months.
    • The PPI for petroleum refineries rose 17.0 percent in March and 62.1 percent over the last 12 months.
    • The PPI for fuels and lubricants retailing rose 22.7 percent in March and 40.0 percent over the last 12 months.
  • The Import and Export Price Indexes show changes in prices of nonmilitary goods and services traded between the United States and the rest of the world.
    • The Import Price Index for crude petroleum rose 15.6 percent in March and 62.0 percent over the last 12 months.
    • The Export Price Index for crude petroleum rose 19.1 percent in March. (This is a new measure, and we haven’t yet tracked it over 12 months.)

National or international events, whether started by Mother Nature or human action, affect the prices businesses and consumers pay for goods and services. We’ve seen this in the past with weather disruptions, such as hurricanes along the Gulf Coast that shut down oil drilling and refining. Current prices may be influenced by the war in Ukraine, the embargo on Russian oil, and other events around the world.

We can see the influence of these events in price changes throughout the production and distribution of oil-related goods and services. BLS estimates the changes in the prices that domestic producers receive through the PPI; this includes petroleum-related industries such as drillers and refiners and the margins on gasoline station sales. Gasoline retailers make money on the margins of their sales—the difference between how much they pay for the fuel they buy from wholesalers and the prices they receive from consumers. Margins for gas stations typically decline when oil prices increase. To learn more, see “As crude oil plunges, retail gasoline margins spike, then retreat.”

Some domestic producers import oil rather than purchase it domestically, and the Import Price Index reflects changes in prices they pay. Some domestic producers also export petroleum-related products, which is captured in Export Price Indexes. Ultimately, consumers purchase gasoline, home heating oil, and other petroleum-based products, and often producers pass price changes on to consumers. Thus, an increase in oil prices can result in higher costs at the pump, more expensive airline fares, and price increases for goods transported by trucks. The CPI reflects these higher prices consumers may face.

The price of oil and related products can change rapidly, adding to the challenges of collecting and publishing timely price statistics. Ideally, BLS would collect prices throughout the month for all goods and services in all price indexes. While that is a long-term goal, it is not simple to implement. Currently, BLS identifies the official “pricing date” for each index, as follows:

  • We collect prices for the CPI throughout the month, with each outlet (such as a gas station) assigned one of three pricing periods, which roughly correspond to the first 10 days, second 10 days, and third 10 days of the month. Once established, prices are updated each month during the same pricing period.
  • We collect prices for most items in the PPI as of the Tuesday of the week containing the thirteenth day of the month. This is the case for the petroleum-related items. (Some items in the PPI have prices collected throughout the month.)
  • We obtain import price data for petroleum from the U.S. Department of Energy. We obtain export price data for petroleum from secondary source market prices. These data represent a weighted average of imported and exported oil throughout the month.

Let’s look at the price of oil over the past few months and how the BLS pricing dates might affect the price indexes.

Daily price per barrel of West Texas Intermediate Crude, January to March 2022

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

The chart shows the volatility of the oil prices, particularly in March. When the February CPI was released on March 10, West Texas Intermediate Crude Oil prices had already soared from $96 per barrel on the last day of February to over $123 two days before the CPI release. While consumers were feeling the pinch at the pump, this steep rise was not reflected in the February CPI data. Similarly, both the February and March PPI price dates (February 15 and March 15) missed the large run-up in oil prices in the first week of March. The Import Price Index, Export Price Index, and CPI did include the highest prices seen in early March, however.

BLS price indexes represent averages—average selections of goods and services, average weights, and typically average time periods. Over time, these indexes provide an accurate view of price change throughout the economy. But during periods of rapidly changing world events, and corresponding rapid changes in the price of individual commodities (and oil in particular), the index pricing periods may miss unusual highs and lows.

Daily price per barrel of West Texas Intermediate Crude, January to March 2022
DateDollars per barrel

Jan 3

$75.99

Jan 4

77.00

Jan 5

77.83

Jan 6

79.47

Jan 7

79.00

Jan 10

78.11

Jan 11

81.17

Jan 12

82.51

Jan 13

81.97

Jan 14

83.82

Jan 18

85.42

Jan 19

86.84

Jan 20

86.29

Jan 21

85.16

Jan 24

84.48

Jan 25

86.61

Jan 26

88.33

Jan 27

87.61

Jan 28

87.67

Jan 31

89.16

Feb 1

88.22

Feb 2

88.16

Feb 3

90.17

Feb 4

92.27

Feb 7

91.25

Feb 8

89.32

Feb 9

89.57

Feb 10

89.83

Feb 11

93.10

Feb 14

95.52

Feb 15

92.07

Feb 16

93.83

Feb 17

91.78

Feb 18

91.26

Feb 22

92.11

Feb 23

92.14

Feb 24

92.77

Feb 25

91.68

Feb 28

96.13

Mar 1

103.66

Mar 2

110.74

Mar 3

107.69

Mar 4

115.77

Mar 7

119.26

Mar 8

123.64

Mar 9

108.81

Mar 10

105.93

Mar 11

109.31

Mar 14

103.22

Mar 15

96.42

Mar 16

94.85

Mar 17

102.97

Mar 18

104.69

Mar 21

112.14

Mar 22

111.03

Mar 23

114.89

Mar 24

114.20

Mar 25

116.20

Mar 28

107.55

Mar 29

104.25

Mar 30

107.81

Mar 31

100.53

Reflecting on Our Recent Price Data User Conference

I have repeatedly seen during my time as Commissioner of Labor Statistics how driven and conscientious BLS employees are. This is especially true of how they relate to our customers.

At the core of our agency’s mission is a responsibility to our customers. BLS strives to meet the needs of a diverse set of customers for accurate, objective, relevant, timely, and accessible information. At the same time, we need to keep pace with a rapidly changing economy. Our data must reflect world events, such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

How do we meet this responsibility to our customers and keep them informed? How do we stay informed about what our customers face and what they need? For years, BLS Regional Offices have sponsored data user conferences to address these questions. These conferences have always been successful forums with broad representation from our data users.

I have participated in many such conferences virtually and in person. I recently had the pleasure of a different kind of virtual BLS data user conference, the price index users conference.

How did it come about? The staff of our Office of Prices and Living Conditions saw the success of our regional events and wanted to interact directly with our customers. What better way to communicate with price index users and get their feedback!

Especially now, with so much attention focused on inflation, customers want to know the pandemic’s effects on not only our survey results, but also on our survey methods, participation, and data quality.

This conference featured presentations by program experts from the Consumer Price Index, Producer Price Index, and U.S. Import and Export Price Indexes. There was plenty of technical detail that researchers, financial journalists, finance professionals, and other participants welcomed. The conference covered alternative data collection methods, medical care, quality adjustment, the impact of COVID-19, and other topics.

Beyond the technical detail, this event featured a listening session. This session went beyond the usual questions and answers to provide a forum for a robust exchange between our sophisticated data users and our experts. Everyone was in the same “room” and could participate in this discussion about methods, customer needs, COVID-19 effects, and future plans.

We at BLS benefit from this type of open exchange, and we thank all who attended for enhancing the 2-day event. We also owe a big thank you to all of our respondents for their survey participation throughout a very challenging time. When you agree to share your company’s information with BLS, you help ensure that we can continue to provide quality data. Survey participants are our bedrock, the foundation for good information about our economy. We cannot succeed in our mission for the American people, let alone our customers, without your help.

We look forward to your participation at our next event!

BLS at the Olympics

When you find yourself in a 16-day marathon on the sofa shouting “U-S-A, U-S-A” at every swimmer, weightlifter, and beach volleyball player, you may not see the relationship to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But as you sprint through the pages of our website or add your likes to Twitter, you’ll begin to see how BLS has a stat for that.

Olympic symbol with five interlocking rings and BLS emblem

Uneven bars

As we head into the gymnastics venue, we notice one of the women’s apparatus reminds us of how we measure productivity. We use two factors to compute labor productivity—output and hours worked. Over the past decade, the “bars” for output and hours worked aren’t quite parallel, but they are definitely uneven; output grew a little faster than hours, leading to rising productivity.  The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in sharp drops in both output and hours, leaving productivity to maintain its steady climb. BLS productivity staff stick the landing by providing a series of quarterly charts to let you vault into all the details.

Labor productivity (output per hour), output, and hours worked indexes, nonfarm business, 2012 to 2021

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in our interactive chart packages.

Decathlon

You may not have to run, jump, and throw, but the fastest growing occupations from our annual employment projections represent a diversity of skills. A decathlon has 10 events, but we have so much Olympic spirit we want to show you the 12 fastest growing occupations. Half of these jobs are in the healthcare field, while a couple involve alternative forms of energy. And, of course, BLS is pleased to see statisticians and data scientists and mathematical science occupations make the list. While the “World’s Greatest Athlete” is decided at the track and field venue, our Employment Projections staff goes the extra mile (1,500 meters, actually) to identify where the jobs will be in the future.

Fastest growing occupations, projected, 2019–29

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

Swimming 4×100 medley relay

At the natatorium, we are here to witness one of the premier events of the Olympic Games, the swimming 4×100 medley relay. Four price indexes will each take a lap to demonstrate how they work together to provide a complete inflation picture. In the leadoff position is the Import Price Index, which rose 11.2 percent from June 2020 to June 2021—with fuel prices being one of the largest drivers. After touching the wall first, imports made way for the Producer Price Index, which rose 7.3 percent for the year ending in June. Price increases for a variety of goods drove this gain. The third leg belonged to the Export Price Index, which rose 16.8 percent over the past year, the largest gain among the quartet. Agricultural products were among the largest contributors to the increase in export prices. In the anchor position was the Consumer Price Index, freestyling with a 5.4-percent increase over the year, leading BLS to the gold medal. Among the largest increases over the past year were consumer prices for gasoline and for used cars and trucks.

Percent change in BLS price indexes, June 2020 to June 2021

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

Greco-Roman wrestling

We bypassed the freestyle wrestling venue to watch Greco-Roman wrestling. The difference between freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling is that freestyle wrestlers can use their legs for both defensive and offensive moves, but Greco-Roman forbids any holds below the waist. Our Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses reports on the part of the body where workplace injuries occur, and, just like Greco-Roman, many of those occur above the waist.

Among workplace injuries that resulted in time away from work, nearly two out of three affected parts of the body above the waist, with the greatest number related to the upper extremities (shoulder, arm, hand, and wrist).

Number of workplace injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work, by part of body, 2019

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

Among the most prevalent injuries to the upper extremities were sprains, strains, punctures, cuts, and burns.

Beach volleyball

This popular sport takes place out on the sandy beaches, with two athletes on each side battling for the gold. Let’s look at some popular beach volleyball spots around the United States and pair them with the unemployment rates by state and metropolitan area. Florida serves up the lowest unemployment rate among the four states we have selected, at 5.7 percent (not seasonally adjusted) in June. Miami had an unemployment rate of 6.2 percent in June—the lowest among the metro areas chosen. Receiving the serve, Hawaii’s rate stood at a 7.9 percent. They bumped it to their teammate Illinois, which also had a rate of 7.9 percent. California reached a little higher, with a rate of 8.0 percent.

Unemployment rates in selected beach volleyball states and metropolitan areas, June 2021, not seasonally adjusted

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

BLS heads to Tokyo

Just as the United States exports its athletes to Japan for the Olympic Games, the two countries are regular trading partners. The BLS International Price Program provides a monthly look at inflation for U.S. imports and exports. Among the data available are price changes based on where the imports come from and where the exports go. And yes, this includes data for Japan. While we’ve seen increases in many inflation measures in recent months, the data show more modest increases in prices of U.S. imports from Japan. Not so for U.S. exports to Japan, which increased 15.8 percent from June 2020 to June 2021. No, this does not represent the price of exporting our athletes; it mostly relates to sharp increases in the price of agricultural exports.

Percent change in U.S. import and export prices, June 2020 to June 2021

Editor’s note: Data for this chart are available in the table below.

Whether it’s weightlifting or dressage or the new sports climbing activities, BLS is cheering on the U.S. Olympians and Paralympians in Japan. At the same time, we’ll still be keeping to our data release schedule. Find out what’s available from BLS during August and September and be sure to follow BLS on Twitter.

Fastest growing occupations, projected, 2019–29
OccupationProjected percent change

Wind turbine service technicians

60.7%

Nurse practitioners

52.4

Solar photovoltaic installers

50.5

Occupational therapy assistants

34.6

Statisticians

34.6

Home health and personal care aides

33.7

Physical therapist assistants

32.6

Medical and health services managers

31.5

Physician assistants

31.3

Information security analysts

31.2

Data scientists and mathematical science occupations, all other

30.9

Derrick operators, oil and gas

30.5
Percent change in BLS price indexes, June 2020 to June 2021
Price indexPercent change

Import Price Index

11.2%

Producer Price Index

7.3

Export Price Index

16.8

Consumer Price Index

5.4
Number of workplace injuries and illnesses requiring days away from work, by part of body, 2019
Part of bodyNumber

Upper extremities (shoulder, arm, hand, wrist)

284,860

Lower extremities (knee, ankle, foot)

216,850

Trunk

187,130

Multiple body parts

82,650

Head

79,620

Body systems

15,150

Neck

11,600

All other body parts

10,360
Unemployment rates in selected beach volleyball states and metropolitan areas, June 2021, not seasonally adjusted
State or metropolitan areaRate

States

Florida

5.7%

Hawaii

7.9

Illinois

7.9

California

8.0

Metropolitan areas

Miami

6.2

Honolulu

7.1

Chicago

8.5

Los Angeles

9.5
Percent change in U.S. import and export prices, June 2020 to June 2021
Price indexAll countriesJapan

Import prices

11.2%1.8%

Export prices

16.815.8

Ensuring Security and Fairness in the Release of Economic Statistics

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is the gold standard of accurate, objective, relevant, timely, and accessible statistical data, and I am committed to keeping it that way. As Commissioner, it is my obligation to do everything possible to protect the integrity of our data and to make sure everyone has equitable access to these data.

One step toward equitable access and data security is coming soon; on March 1, 2020, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) will eliminate all electronics from the lock-up facility where we allow members of the media to review economic releases and prepare news stories before the official release of the data. We are changing the procedures to better protect our statistical information from premature disclosure and to ensure fairness in providing our information to the public.

For many years the news media have helped BLS and the Employment and Training Administration (ETA) inform the public about our data. Since the mid-1980s, BLS and ETA have provided prerelease data access to news organizations under strict embargoes, known as “lock-ups.” We have provided this early access consistent with federal Statistical Policy Directives of the Office of Management and Budget. BLS uses the lock-up for several major releases each month, including the Employment Situation and Consumer Price Index. ETA uses the lock-up for the Unemployment Insurance Weekly Claims data. These economic data have significant commercial value and may affect the movement of commodity and financial markets upon release.

Because of technological advancements, the current lock-up procedure creates an unfair competitive advantage for lock-up participants who provide BLS data to trading companies. Today, the internet permits anyone in the world to obtain economic releases for themselves directly from the BLS or DOL websites. However, unlike media organizations with computer access in the current lock-up, others who use the data do not have up to 30 minutes before the official release to process the data. Their postings about the data may lag behind those released directly from the lock-up at official publication time, 8:30 a.m. Eastern. High-speed algorithmic trading technology now gives a notable competitive advantage to market participants who have even a few microseconds head start. To eliminate this advantage and further protect our data from inadvertent or purposeful prerelease, no computers or any other electronic devices will be allowed in the lock-up.

In recent years, BLS and ETA have devoted significant resources to introducing improved technologies that strengthen our infrastructure and ensure data are posted to the BLS or DOL websites immediately following the official release time.

We at BLS and ETA are committed to the principle of a level playing field—our data must be made available to all users at the same time. We are equally committed to protecting our data. We are now positioned to continue helping the media produce accurate stories about the data, while also ensuring that all parties, including the media, businesses, and the general public, will have equitable and timely access to our most sensitive data.

You can find more details about these changes in our notice to lock-up participants. We also have a set of questions and answers about the changes to the lock-up procedures.