Consumer Price Index Rose Slightly in September; Social Security COLA for 2015 Will Be 1.7%

October 22, 2014

by Doug Short

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released the September CPI data this morning. Year-over-year unadjusted Headline CPI came in at 1.66%, down from the previous month's 1.99%. Year-over-year Core CPI (ex Food and Energy) came in at 1.72% (rounded to 1.7%), little changed from the previous month's 1.70%. The non-seasonally adjusted month-over-month Headline number was up 0.08%, and the Core number was up 0.23%. On a seasonally-adjusted basis, the all items index was up 0.1%.

The CPI for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W), which is used to calculate Social Security cost-of-living-adjustments, rose 0.1%, which was enough to ensure that the 2015 COLA will be 1.7%.

Here is the introduction from the BLS summary, which leads with the seasonally adjusted data monthly data:

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.1 percent in September on a seasonally adjusted basis, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 1.7 percent before seasonal adjustment.

Increases in shelter and food indexes outweighed declines in energy indexes to result in the seasonally adjusted all items increase. The food index rose 0.3 percent as five of the six major grocery store food group indexes increased. The energy index declined 0.7 percent as the indexes for gasoline, electricity, and fuel oil all fell.

The index for all items less food and energy increased 0.1 percent in September. Along with the shelter index, the index for medical care increased, and the indexes for alcoholic beverages and for personal care advanced slightly. Several indexes were unchanged, and the indexes for airline fares and for used cars and trucks declined in September.

The all items index increased 1.7 percent over the last 12 months, the same increase as for the 12 months ending August. The 12-month change in the index for all items less food and energy also remained at 1.7 percent. The 12-month change in the shelter index has been gradually increasing, and reached 3.0 percent for the first time since January 2008. The food index has also risen 3.0 percent over the span, while the energy index has declined 0.6 percent.   [More…]

Investing.com was looking for increases of 0.1% for Headline and 0.2% for Core CPI. Year-over-year forecasts were 1.7% for both Headline and Core.

The first chart is an overlay of Headline CPI and Core CPI (the latter excludes Food and Energy) since the turn of the century. I've highlighted 2 to 2.5 percent range, which the Federal Reserve currently targets for the CPI's cousin index, the BEA's Personal Consumptions Expenditures (PCE) price index.

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The next chart shows both series since 1957, which was the first time the government began tracking the core inflation metric.

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In the wake of the Great Recession, two percent has been the Fed's target for core inflation. However, at their December 2012 FOMC meeting, the inflation ceiling was raised to 2.5% while their accommodative measures (low Fed Funds Rate and quantitative easing) are in place.

Federal Reserve policy, which has historically focused on core inflation as measured by the core PCE Price Index, will see that the more familiar core CPI has reached the PCE the target range of 2 to 2.5 percent.

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