WISCONSINREPORT.COM (04/24/2009) - The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.2 percent in March, before seasonal adjustment according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor. The index has decreased 0.4 percent over the last year, the first 12 month decline since August 1955. On a seasonally adjusted basis, the CPI-U decreased 0.1 percent in March after rising 0.4 percent in February.
The decrease was due to a downturn in the energy index, which declined 3.0 percent in March after rising 3.3 percent the previous month. All the energy indexes decreased, particularly the indexes for fuel oil, natural gas, and motor fuel.
The food index declined 0.1 percent for the second straight month to virtually the same level as October 2008. The food at home index declined 0.4 percent, the second straight such decrease, as the index for dairy and related products continued to decline.
The index for all items less food and energy increased 0.2 percent for the third month in a row. An 11.0 percent increase in the index for tobacco and smoking products accounted for over sixty percent of the March rise, with a 0.6 percent increase in the new vehicles index also contributing.
In contrast, the indexes for lodging away from home, used cars and trucks, and airline fares continued to decline. The index for all items less food and energy has risen 1.8 percent over the past year.
The food and beverages index declined 0.1 percent in March, the same decrease as in February. A 0.4 percent decrease in the food at home index more than offset 0.1 percent increases in the indexes for food away from home and for alcoholic beverages.
Within food at home, the indexes for three of the six major grocery store food groups declined. The largest decline was in the dairy and related products index, which fell 2.4 percent in March, the same decrease as in February, as the milk index declined 4.4 percent.
The index for meats, poultry, fish and eggs decreased 0.9 percent, the fifth straight monthly decline, as the index for eggs fell 4.6 percent and the beef index declined 1.4 percent. The index for cereals and bakery products also declined in March, while the other food at home index was virtually unchanged.
Registering increases in March were the indexes for fruits and vegetables and for nonalcoholic beverages. The food index has increased 4.4 percent over the past year, with the food at home index up 4.3 percent.
After being virtually unchanged in February, the housing index declined 0.1 percent in March. The shelter index was virtually unchanged in March. The indexes for rent and owners' equivalent rent both rose 0.2 percent, but these increases were offset by a 2.4 percent decrease in the index for lodging away from home. This was the sixth straight monthly decline in that index, which has fallen 7.8 percent over the past year.
The index for household energy decreased 1.8 percent in March. The indexes for fuel oil and natural gas, which have been falling since last summer, continued to decline in March, with the fuel oil index falling 8.5 percent and the index for natural gas decreasing 4.8 percent. The electricity index turned down in March, falling 0.2 percent after rising 0.5 percent in February.
The index for household furnishings and operations rose 0.3 percent in March. Over the past year, the housing index has risen 1.4 percent, with the shelter index up 1.5 percent and the household energy index down 0.5 percent.
The index for transportation declined 1.1 percent in March after rising 1.9 percent in February. The gasoline index, which rose 8.3
percent in February, declined 4.0 percent in March. (Prior to seasonal adjustment, gasoline prices rose 1.0 percent in March.)
The index for new and used motor vehicles was virtually unchanged in March, as a 0.6 percent increase in the new vehicles index offset a 1.7 percent decline in the index for used cars and trucks. The index for public transportation declined 1.0 percent in March as the airline fare index fell 2.3 percent.
This was the seventh straight monthly decline for the airline fares index; it has decreased 7.7 percent over the last 12 months.
The transportation index has declined 13.1 percent since March 2008, with the index for gasoline down 39.3 percent.
Among other CPI groups, the index for apparel turned down in March, declining 0.2 percent after rising 1.3 percent in February. (On a not seasonally adjusted basis, apparel prices rose 3.1 percent in March and were up 1.4 percent over the past year.)
The medical care index rose 0.2 percent in March and has increased 2.8 percent over the past year. The index for recreation was virtually unchanged in March and was up 1.7
percent over the past year. The index for education and communication rose 0.2 percent in March, with the education index up 0.5 percent and the communication index virtually unchanged. The index for other goods and services rose 2.7 percent in March due to the 11.0 percent increase in the tobacco and smoking products index.
YEAR TO DATE CHANGE
For the first three months of 2009, consumer prices increase at a seasonally adjusted annualized rate (SAAR) of 2.2 percent. This compares to a 0.1 percent increase for all of 2008. The index for energy, which fell 21.3 percent in 2008, advanced at a 7.9 SAAR in the first quarter of 2009. Petroleum-based energy costs rose at a 29.1 percent rate and energy services decreased at an 8.5 percent rate.
The food index fell at a SAAR of 0.8 percent in the first quarter of 2009 after rising 5.9 percent during 2008. The food at home index, which rose 6.6 percent during 2008, fell at a 3.6 percent SAAR in the first quarter of 2009.
Excluding food and energy, the CPU-U rose at a 2.2 percent SAAR during the first quarter of 2009 after increasing 1.8 percent during 2008.
Advances during the first quarter in the indexes for tobacco, new vehicles, medical care, and apparel contributed to the rise, while declines in the indexes for lodging away from home and public transportation mitigated the increase.