Skip to Content
ublogo print

University at Buffalo Libraries

Consumer Price Index: Economic Statistics


Introduction

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) compiles the monthly consumer price index (CPI), the most widely quoted figure on inflation. CPI measures the overall rate of price change for a fixed basket of goods and services bought by households. Its measure of inflation or deflation reflects the cost of maintaining the same purchases over time because it prices the same items every month. CPI is used in a variety of ways to adjust for cost increases in government and the commercial sectors. These include inflation adjustments to wages, pensions, and union contracts.

The consumer price index measures changes in costs of living against a base period. For example, suppose the base period of 1982-1984 is 100, and the CPI for a given geography is 250 in 1995. What cost $1.00 during the 1982-1984 period costs $2.50 in 1995. Likewise, a .95 CPI for 1980 indicates what cost $1.00 during 1982-1984 cost $0.95 in 1980. The CPI is a good measure of price changes among multiple time periods in the same geography. However, using the CPI to compare costs of living among different geographies is incorrect because you do not know what the actual retail prices are. Consult the quarterly publication, ACCRA Cost of Living Index (current issues at Lockwood Ref HD6983 .I58; back issues in Lockwood Periodical Collection), for comparative living costs among nearly 300 U.S. urban areas.

See the following for more information:


Domestic CPI Data Sources

Consumer Price Index (US Bureau of Labor Statistics)
http://www.bls.gov/CPI/
The CPI home page maintained by the Bureau of Labor Statistics contains current and archived news releases (1994-present), and regional and time-series data tables. View pre-configured tables or use the interactive menus to create customized tables.

CPI Detailed Report (US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Monthly.)
Lockwood Documents US L2.38/3: (1974-present)
Lockwood Documents US L 2.38/ 3: (1964-1974; under former title Consumer Price Index )
The primary printed source for CPI data. Data pertain to US city averages, geographic regions, and selected urban areas. The publication time lag is 2-3 months.

The CPI Detailed Report published information about the Buffalo-Niagara Falls metropolitan area from 1963-1997. Selected variables were either monthly or bimonthly between 1963 and 1986. Data was semiannual in the January and July issues between 1987 and 1997. Click here to view an Excel file that reproduces this data. (http://ublib.buffalo.edu/libraries/asl/guides/busdoc/Buf_NF_CPI.xls)

What is a Dollar Worth? (Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis)
http://minneapolisfed.org/Research/data/us/calc/index.cfm
An online calculator compares change in the value of a dollar between 2 specified years from 1913 to date. See also the Bureau of Labor Statistics Inflation Calculator at http://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl


International CPI Data Sources

Note: The US Bureau of Labor Statistics, foreign national governments, and international agencies use different methodologies when compiling their consumer price indexes. CPI data from different sources are generally incompatible.

Foreign Labor Statistics (US Bureau of Labor Statistics)
http://www.bls.gov/fls/home.htm
The Bureau of Labor Statistics compiles price index statistics for selected industrialized countries. Coverage includes a heavy concentration of Western European nations.

International Financial Statistics (International Monetary Fund)
Provides financial statistics for countries throughout the world, including price data. Lockwood Library has three versions of International Financial Statistics

  • Monthly, Lockwood Periodicals
    Per HG3881 .I626 (1948-present)
    Covers over 20 monthly time periods.
  • International Financial Statistics Yearbook
    HG3881 .I5762 (1979-present; most current in Lockwood Reference)
    Covers over 20 annual time periods
  • IFS CD-ROM , monthly
    CD-ROM HG3881 .I626 (most recent edition permanently loaded on a Lockwood Reference computer)
    The CD-ROM covers 1948 through the present.

LABORSTA (International Labour Office)
http://laborsta.ilo.org/
Presents annual data for over 200 nations measuring the consumer price index, plus employment and unemployment; hours of work; wages; labor costs; occupational injuries; and strikes and lockouts.

Monthly Bulletin of Statistics (United Nations)
Lockwood Periodical Collection Per HC57 .U66 (1979-2003)
Supplies CPI data for over 170 countries. CPI information is provided for two categories: "All Items" and "Food". The time lag is 3 to 6 months. For retrospective data, see the United Nations Statistical Yearbook (HA12.5 U63 1948-present; most current edition in Lockwood Reference).

United Nations Common Database (UNCDB)
http://ublib.buffalo.edu/libraries/e-resources/UNSTATS.html
Provides a Consumer Price Index for 208 countries covering 1969 to date.

Year Book of Labour Statistics (International Labour Office).
Lockwood Book Collection HD7801 .I653 (1935-present; most current edition in Lockwood Reference)
Presents a consumer price index for over 160 countries measuring costs of all goods, as well as that for food; fuel; clothing; and rent.