CPI up 0.3% for March 2012

The March Consumer Price Index, which measures inflation, increased 0.3%. Inflation was across the board and for the year has increased 2.7%. Below is the graph for CPI's monthly percentage change.



Energy overall increased 0.9%. The energy index separates out all energy costs and puts them together. Energy is also mixed in with other indexes, such as heating oil for the housing index and gas for the transportation index. The energy index is up 4.6% for the last 12 months.

Gas alone increased 1.7% for March and is up 9.0% from this time last year. Fuel oil, not seasonally adjusted, increased 2.7% for the month. Below is the CPI gas index. We're close to exceeding the 2008 oil bubble levels.



Below are gas prices, last updated April 9th. While gas prices, taken monthly do match CPI's gas index, in a way the 9% increase from a year ago is a little misleading since as we can see, just a little further back in time we had much lower gas prices.



Electricity declined -0.8% but piped natural gas increased 0.9%. From a year ago, electricity has increased 0.6% and natural gas has dropped -9.1%. Below is the household energy Index.


CPI energy


Below is the overall CPI energy index.



Core inflation, or CPI minus food and energy, increased 0.2% for March. Core inflation has risen 2.3% for the year. Core CPI is a Federal Reserve inflation watch number and is above the Fed's 2% yearly target rate.



Core CPI's monthly percentage change is graphed below.


core cpi


Shelter increased 0.2%, the 6th month in a row. Rent increased 0.2%, home owner's equivalent rent increased 0.2%. Used cars & trucks increased 1.3% for the month after declining for the 6 months previous.

Graphed below is the quarterly percentage change of rent, the largest monthly household expense for people who can least afford increases as those with less money disproportionately rent vs. own. For the year the shelter index has increased 2.1%.


cpi rent


Food and beverages overall increased, 0.2% and has increased 3.3% from a year ago. The food at home index (think groceries), increased 0.1% and is up 3.6% for the year. Fruits & veggies are down -3.9% for the year.

Eating out, or food away from home increased 0.2% from last month and is up 3.0% from a year ago.



The overall Medical index increased 0.3% for the month, and is up 3.5% for the year. Medical care services increased 0.3%. Medical commodities are things like your prescription drugs and it increased yet another 0.4% from last month.


CPI Medical


According to the BLS, food and beverages, which includes food at home, makes up 14.8% of the index. Housing is 41.5% and transportation, including gas for the car, is 17.3%. Medical care is only 6.6%, they claim. All items minus food and energy are considered 77.2% of the total price expenditures for consumers.....according to them.

The DOL/BLS does take yearly surveys on where the money goes in the monthly budget, but as one can see, food and energy are significant amounts of the monthly finances. Run away costs in these two areas can break the bank, so can food. Additionally CPI uses substitution, so if steak goes through the roof, somehow we're all just fine with hamburger and prices didn't really overall increase much.

CPI-W for the month, unadjusted was 226.304, a 2.9% increase for the year. CPI-W is up 2.9% for the month, seasonally adjusted. CPI-W is used to calculate government transfer payments, such as social security increases.

Last month's CPI report overview, unrevised, although most graphs are updated, is here.

If you're wondering why the graphs look weird, the graph calculates percentages from the index and doesn't round. The actual data from the BLS report does round to one decimal place. In other words, 0.05% is rounded to 0.1%.

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this overview is abbreviated

As EP readers know, normally these overviews come out the day the report does and go into more details.

For completeness sake I decided to at least show the graphs, remember to get individual values, just click on the first link to go to the BLS CPI site.

Sorry for the lateness and short overview, I've managed to get some serious respiratory something that has me wiped out for the last three days.