Washington, DC…The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.6 percent in March on a seasonally adjusted basis after rising 0.4 percent in February, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The March 1-month increase was the largest rise since a 0.6-percent increase in August 2012. Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 2.6 percent before seasonal adjustment.
The gasoline index continued to increase, rising 9.1 percent in March and accounting for nearly half of the seasonally adjusted increase in the all items index. The natural gas index also rose, contributing to a 5.0-percent increase in the energy index over the month. The food index rose 0.1 percent in March, with the food at home index and the food away from home index both also rising 0.1 percent.
The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.3 percent in March. The shelter index increased in March as did the motor vehicle insurance index, the recreation index, and the household furnishings and operations index. Indexes which decreased over the month include apparel and education.
The all items index rose 2.6 percent for the 12 months ending March, a much larger increase than the 1.7-percent reported for the period ending in February. The index for all items less food and energy rose 1.6 percent over the last 12 months, after increasing 1.3 percent over the 12 month period ending in February. The food index rose 3.5 percent over the last 12 months, while the energy index increased 13.2 percent over that period.
Table A. Percent changes in CPI for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U): U.S. city
Seasonally adjusted changes from
Sep. Oct. Nov. Dec. Jan. Feb. Mar. ended
2020 2020 2020 2020 2021 2021 2021 Mar.
All items……………… .2 .1 .2 .2 .3 .4 .6 2.6
Food…………………. .1 .2 .0 .3 .1 .2 .1 3.5
Food at home…………. -.3 .1 -.2 .3 -.1 .3 .1 3.3
Food away from home (1).. .6 .3 .1 .4 .3 .1 .1 3.7
Energy……………….. 1.4 .6 .7 2.6 3.5 3.9 5.0 13.2
Energy commodities……. 1.4 .7 .5 5.1 7.3 6.6 8.9 22.0
Gasoline (all types)…. 1.7 .7 .5 5.2 7.4 6.4 9.1 22.5
Fuel oil (1)………… -3.0 .7 3.3 10.2 5.4 9.9 3.2 20.2
Energy services………. 1.3 .5 .9 .2 -.3 .9 .6 4.1
Electricity…………. .8 .6 .3 .4 -.2 .7 .0 2.5
Utility (piped) gas
service………….. 3.1 .4 3.0 -.4 -.4 1.6 2.5 9.8
All items less food and
energy…………….. .2 .1 .2 .0 .0 .1 .3 1.6
Commodities less food and
energy commodities…. .5 .0 .0 .1 .1 -.2 .1 1.7
New vehicles………… .3 .3 .0 .4 -.5 .0 .0 1.5
Used cars and trucks…. 5.3 .9 -1.4 -.9 -.9 -.9 .5 9.4
Apparel…………….. -.4 -.9 .7 .9 2.2 -.7 -.3 -2.5
commodities (1)…… -.6 -.7 -.4 -.2 -.1 -.7 .1 -2.4
Services less energy
services………….. .1 .1 .2 .0 .0 .2 .4 1.6
Shelter…………….. .1 .1 .1 .1 .1 .2 .3 1.7
Transportation services -.3 .2 1.3 -.6 -.3 -.1 1.8 -1.6
Medical care services… .0 -.3 -.1 -.1 .5 .5 .1 2.7
1 Not seasonally adjusted.
The food index increased 0.1 percent in March. The index for food at home also rose 0.1 percent over the month as two of the six major grocery store food group indexes increased. The index for fruits and vegetables rose 1.0 percent in March, following a 0.7-percent increase in February. The index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs rose 0.1 percent in March, a smaller increase than the 0.3-percent increase in February. The index for other food at home was unchanged over the
The index for dairy and related products declined 0.5 percent in March, the third consecutive monthly decrease in that index. The index for nonalcoholic beverages decreased 0.2 percent over the month, while the index for cereals and bakery products declined 0.1 percent.
The food away from home index rose 0.1 percent in March, continuing a long series of increases. The index for limited service meals rose 0.5 percent, while the index for full service meals increased 0.2 percent.
The food at home index increased 3.3 percent over the past 12 months. All six major grocery store food group indexes increased over the period, with increases ranging from 1.6 percent (dairy and related products) to 5.4 percent (meats, poultry, fish, and eggs). The index for food away from home rose 3.7 percent over the last year.
The index for limited service meals rose 6.5 percent, the largest 12-month increase in the history of the index, which began in 1997. The index for full service meals rose 3.2 percent over the last 12 months.
The energy index continued to rise in March, increasing 5.0 percent. The index for gasoline was again the dominant factor in the increase, rising 9.1 percent over the month. (Before seasonal adjustment, gasoline prices rose 11.7 percent in March.) The natural gas index increased 2.5 percent over the month, and the electricity index was unchanged in March.
The energy index rose 13.2 percent over the past 12 months. The gasoline index rose 22.5 percent over the last 12 months, while the index for natural gas increased 9.8 percent, and the index for electricity rose 2.5 percent over the same period. The fuel oil index increased 20.2 percent over the last 12 months.
All items less food and energy
The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.3 percent in March. The shelter index also rose 0.3 percent in March, with the index for owners’ equivalent rent and the index for rent both increasing 0.2 percent. The motor vehicle insurance index increased for the third consecutive month, rising 3.3 percent in March. The index for recreation increased 0.4 percent over the month, as did the index for household furnishings and operations. The used cars and trucks index also increased in March, rising 0.5 percent, and the index for personal care increased 0.6 percent in March.
The medical care index rose 0.1 percent in March, after rising 0.3 percent in February. The hospital services index increased 0.6 percent over the month, while the physicians’ services index rose 0.3 percent in March. The index for prescription drugs was unchanged over the month.
The index for apparel fell 0.3 percent in March, following a 0.7-percent decline the previous month. The education index also declined over the month, falling 0.2 percent. The index for communication and the index for new vehicles were both unchanged in March.
The index for all items less food and energy rose 1.6 percent over the past 12 months. Among the indexes rising more quickly were those for shelter (+1.7 percent), used cars and trucks (+9.4 percent), and medical care (+1.8 percent). Indexes that declined over the last 12 months include lodging away from home (-6.4 percent), airline fares (-15.1 percent), and apparel (-2.5 percent).
Not seasonally adjusted CPI measures
The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 2.6 percent over the last 12 months to an index level of 264.877 (1982-84=100). For the month, the index increased 0.7 percent prior to seasonal adjustment.
The Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) increased 3.0 percent over the last 12 months to an index level of 258.935 (1982-84=100). For the month, the index rose 0.8 percent prior to seasonal adjustment.
The Chained Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (C-CPI-U) increased 2.5 percent over the last 12 months. For the month, the index increased 0.7 percent on a not seasonally adjusted basis. Please note that the indexes for the past 10 to 12 months are subject to revision.
The Consumer Price Index for April 2021 is scheduled to be released on Wednesday,
May 12, 2021 at 8:30 a.m. (ET).
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic Impact on March 2021 Consumer Price Index Data
Data collection by personal visit for the Consumer Price Index (CPI) program has been suspended
since March 16, 2020. When possible, data normally collected by personal visit were collected either
online or by phone. Additionally, data collection in March was affected by the temporary closing or
limited operations of certain types of establishments. These factors resulted in an increase in the
number of prices considered temporarily unavailable and imputed. While the CPI program attempted to
collect as much data as possible, many indexes are based on smaller amounts of collected prices
than usual, and a small number of indexes that are normally published were not published this month.
Additional information is available at
Brief Explanation of the CPI
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) measures the change in prices paid by consumers
for goods and services. The CPI reflects spending patterns for each of two
population groups: all urban consumers and urban wage earners and clerical
workers. The all urban consumer group represents about 93 percent of the total
U.S. population. It is based on the expenditures of almost all residents of urban
or metropolitan areas, including professionals, the self-employed, the poor,
the unemployed, and retired people, as well as urban wage earners and clerical
workers. Not included in the CPI are the spending patterns of people living in
rural nonmetropolitan areas, farming families, people in the Armed Forces, and
those in institutions, such as prisons and mental hospitals. Consumer inflation
for all urban consumers is measured by two indexes, namely, the Consumer Price
Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) and the Chained Consumer Price Index for
All Urban Consumers (C-CPI-U).
The Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W)
is based on the expenditures of households included in the CPI-U definition
that meet two requirements: more than one-half of the household’s income must
come from clerical or wage occupations, and at least one of the household’s
earners must have been employed for at least 37 weeks during the previous
12 months. The CPI-W population represents about 29 percent of the total U.S.
population and is a subset of the CPI-U population.
The CPIs are based on prices of food, clothing, shelter, fuels, transportation,
doctors’ and dentists’ services, drugs, and other goods and services that people
buy for day-to-day living. Prices are collected each month in 75 urban areas
across the country from about 6,000 housing units and approximately 22,000 retail
establishments (department stores, supermarkets, hospitals, filling stations, and
other types of stores and service establishments). All taxes directly associated
with the purchase and use of items are included in the index. Prices of fuels and
a few other items are obtained every month in all 75 locations. Prices of most
other commodities and services are collected every month in the three largest
geographic areas and every other month in other areas. Prices of most goods and
services are obtained by personal visits or telephone calls by the Bureau’s
In calculating the index, price changes for the various items in each location
are aggregated using weights, which represent their importance in the spending
of the appropriate population group. Local data are then combined to obtain a
U.S. city average. For the CPI-U and CPI-W, separate indexes are also published
by size of city, by region of the country, for cross-classifications of regions
and population-size classes, and for 23 selected local areas. Area indexes do not
measure differences in the level of prices among cities; they only measure the
average change in prices for each area since the base period. For the C-CPI-U,
data are issued only at the national level. The CPI-U and CPI-W are considered
final when released, but the C-CPI-U is issued in preliminary form and subject
to three subsequent quarterly revisions.
The index measures price change from a designed reference date. For most of the
CPI-U and the CPI-W, the reference base is 1982-84 equals 100. The reference
base for the C-CPI-U is December 1999 equals 100. An increase of 7 percent from
the reference base, for example, is shown as 107.000. Alternatively, that
relationship can also be expressed as the price of a base period market basket
of goods and services rising from $100 to $107.
Sampling Error in the CPI
The CPI is a statistical estimate that is subject to sampling error because it
is based upon a sample of retail prices and not the complete universe of all
prices. BLS calculates and publishes estimates of the 1-month, 2-month, 6-month,
and 12-month percent change standard errors annually for the CPI-U. These standard
error estimates can be used to construct confidence intervals for hypothesis
testing. For example, the estimated standard error of the 1-month percent change
is 0.03 percent for the U.S. all items CPI. This means that if we repeatedly sample
from the universe of all retail prices using the same methodology, and estimate a
percentage change for each sample, then 95 percent of these estimates will be within
0.06 percent of the 1-month percentage change based on all retail prices. For
example, for a 1-month change of 0.2 percent in the all items CPI-U, we are
95 percent confident that the actual percent change based on all retail prices would
fall between 0.14 and 0.26 percent. For the latest data, including information on
how to use the estimates of standard error, see
Calculating Index Changes
Movements of the indexes from 1 month to another are usually expressed as percent
changes rather than changes in index points, because index point changes are
affected by the level of the index in relation to its base period, while percent
changes are not. The following table shows an example of using index values to
calculate percent changes:
Item A Item B Item C
Year I 112.500 225.000 110.000
Year II 121.500 243.000 128.000
Change in index points 9.000 18.000 18.000
Percent change 9.0/112.500 x 100 = 8.0 18.0/225.000 x 100 = 8.0 18.0/110.000 x 100 = 16.4
Use of Seasonally Adjusted and Unadjusted Data
The Consumer Price Index (CPI) produces both unadjusted and seasonally adjusted data.
Seasonally adjusted data are computed using seasonal factors derived by the X-13ARIMA-
SEATS seasonal adjustment method. These factors are updated each February, and the new
factors are used to revise the previous 5 years of seasonally adjusted data. The
factors are available at
www.bls.gov/cpi/tables/seasonal-adjustment/seasonal-factors-2021.xlsx. For more
information on data revision scheduling, please see the Factsheet on Seasonal
Adjustment at www.bls.gov/cpi/seasonal-adjustment/questions-and-answers.htm and
the Timeline of Seasonal Adjustment Methodological Changes at
For analyzing short-term price trends in the economy, seasonally adjusted changes are
usually preferred since they eliminate the effect of changes that normally occur at
the same time and in about the same magnitude every year—such as price movements
resulting from weather events, production cycles, model changeovers, holidays, and
sales. This allows data users to focus on changes that are not typical for the time
of year. The unadjusted data are of primary interest to consumers concerned about
the prices they actually pay. Unadjusted data are also used extensively for escalation
purposes. Many collective bargaining contract agreements and pension plans, for example,
tie compensation changes to the Consumer Price Index before adjustment for seasonal
variation. BLS advises against the use of seasonally adjusted data in escalation
agreements because seasonally adjusted series are revised annually.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics uses intervention analysis seasonal adjustment for some
CPI series. Sometimes extreme values or sharp movements can distort the underlying
seasonal pattern of price change. Intervention analysis seasonal adjustment is a process
by which the distortions caused by such unusual events are estimated and removed from
the data prior to calculation of seasonal factors. The resulting seasonal factors, which
more accurately represent the seasonal pattern, are then applied to the unadjusted data.
For example, this procedure was used for the motor fuel series to offset the effects of
the 2009 return to normal pricing after the worldwide economic downturn in 2008.
Retaining this outlier data during seasonal factor calculation would distort the
computation of the seasonal portion of the time series data for motor fuel, so it was
estimated and removed from the data prior to seasonal adjustment. Following that,
seasonal factors were calculated based on this “prior adjusted” data. These seasonal
factors represent a clearer picture of the seasonal pattern in the data. The last step
is for motor fuel seasonal factors to be applied to the unadjusted data.
For the seasonal factors introduced for January 2021, BLS adjusted 72 series using
intervention analysis seasonal adjustment, including selected food and beverage items,
motor fuels, electricity, and vehicles.
Revision of Seasonally Adjusted Indexes
Seasonally adjusted data, including the U.S. city average all items index levels, are
subject to revision for up to 5 years after their original release. Every year, economists
in the CPI calculate new seasonal factors for seasonally adjusted series and apply them to
the last 5 years of data. Seasonally adjusted indexes beyond the last 5 years of data are
considered to be final and not subject to revision. For January 2021, revised seasonal
factors and seasonally adjusted indexes for 2016 to 2020 were calculated and published.
For series which are directly adjusted using the Census X-13ARIMA-SEATS seasonal adjustment
software, the seasonal factors for 2020 will be applied to data for 2021 to produce the
seasonally adjusted 2021 indexes. Series which are indirectly seasonally adjusted by
summing seasonally adjusted component series have seasonal factors which are derived and
are therefore not available in advance.
Determining Seasonal Status
Each year the seasonal status of every series is reevaluated based upon certain statistical
criteria. Using these criteria, BLS economists determine whether a series should change its
status from “not seasonally adjusted” to “seasonally adjusted”, or vice versa. If any of
the 81 components of the U.S. city average all items index change their seasonal adjustment
status from seasonally adjusted to not seasonally adjusted, not seasonally adjusted data
will be used in the aggregation of the dependent series for the last 5 years, but the
seasonally adjusted indexes before that period will not be changed. Thirty-four of the 81
components of the U.S. city average all items index are not seasonally adjusted for 2021.
For additional information about the CPI visit www.bls.gov/cpi or contact the CPI Information
and Analysis Section at 202-691-7000 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
For additional information on seasonal adjustment in the CPI visit
www.bls.gov/cpi/seasonal-adjustment/home.htm or contact the CPI seasonal adjustment section
at 202-691-6968 or email@example.com.
Information from this release will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon
request. Voice phone: 202-691-5200; Federal Relay Service: 1-800-877-8339.