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What Is the Consumer Price Index?

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics regularly reports the Consumer Price Index as an indicator of the average change in the prices of a basket of consumer goods and services. Changes in the CPI are used to assess shifts in the cost of living.

The CPI is the most often used statistic in determining periods of inflation or deflation in the economy. Reported on a monthly basis since 1913, the index measures price changes in sectors including food, energy, health care and shelter. Based on prices in predominantly urban areas, individuals of various income levels such as professionals, unemployed and retirees are part of the survey.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics records approximately 80,000 items each month from retail stores and service establishments and is used by governments, businesses, economists and investors to determine the purchasing power of consumers for making informed decisions on the economy.

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