According to a March 16 press release from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers increased 0.4 percent in February after adjusting for seasonable variation. The increase in gas prices was responsible for more than 80 percent of the total price increase that occurred. The total consumer price index increased 2.9 percent over the past twelve months, before seasonal adjustment.
The consumer price index (CPI) measures how pricing of consumer goods and services changes, acting as a measure of inflation by tracking how much more people need to pay for their basic cost of living expenses over time. Consumer goods that are factored into determining the CPI include food, energy, commodities, new vehicles, apparel, medical care, shelter and transportation services as well as other items.
Of these different categories, the gasoline index rose most sharply in the month of February.. The increase in gas prices also drove a 3.2 percent increase in the energy index as well, even at a time when the price index for natural gas was falling. This significant increase now brings the 12-month change figures on energy up to 7.0 percent.
The rise in gasoline costs is not a new phenomenon, as the January 19 Consumer Price Index also showed significant increases in gas prices over the preceding twelve-month period. However, the rise in energy prices had been slowing when comparing 2011 to 2012, and prices had begun to show stability and even limited decline. This larger increase in February may point to the fact that further increases are on the way, although this remains to be seen over the coming months.
Other categories where increases occurred in February include shelter, new vehicles, medical care and household furnishings. Food expenses, however, remained the same with no change in February. This is the second month in a row that no change has occurred in the food index and with this ongoing stability, the 12-month change in this index is now at its lowest level since June of last year.