Consumer Prices Continue to Rise Unless You Aren’t Eating Food or Using Energy

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers increased 0.5 percent in February on a seasonally adjusted basis, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 2.1 percent before seasonal adjustment.

Though the seasonally adjusted increase in the all items index was broad-based, the energy index was once again the largest contributor. The gasoline index continued to rise, and the index for household energy turned up in February with all of its components posting increases. Food indexes also continued to rise in February, with sharp increases in the indexes for fresh vegetables and meats contributing to a 0.8 percent increase in the food at home index, the largest since July 2008.

The index for all items less food and energy rose in February as well. Most of its major components posted increases, including the indexes for shelter, new vehicles, medical care, and airline fares. The apparel index was one of the few to decline.

The 12-month changes in major indexes continue to trend upward. The all items index increased 2.1 percent for the 12 months ending February; the figure was 1.1 percent as recently as November. The 12-month increase in the index for all items less food and energy reached 1.1 percent in February after being as low as 0.6 percent in October. The 11.0 percent increase in the energy index is the largest since May 2010, while the 2.3 percent rise in the food index is the largest since May 2009.

Food Index Continues to Rise

The food index rose 0.6 percent in February after rising 0.5 percent in January. The food at home index, up 0.7 percent in January, rose 0.8 percent in February. Five of the six major grocery store food groups posted increases. The index for fruits and vegetables increased the most, rising 2.2 percent as the fresh vegetables index increased 6.7 percent. The index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs advanced 1.2 percent with the index for meats up 1.9 percent. The dairy and related products index increased 0.6 percent, as did the index for other food at home. The index for nonalcoholic beverages, which rose 1.5 percent in January, advanced 0.2 percent in February.

The index for cereals and bakery products, which was unchanged in February, was the only major grocery store food group not to rise. Over the past 12 months, the index for food at home has risen 2.8 percent with all six groups increasing. The index for food away from home rose 0.2 percent in February and has risen 1.6 percent over the past 12 months.

Energy Index Rose the Most

The energy index rose 3.4 percent in February and has risen 9.8 percent over the last three months. The gasoline index continued to increase, climbing 4.7 percent in February after a 3.5 percent rise in January. (Before seasonal adjustment, gasoline prices rose 2.2 percent in February.) The index for household energy, which fell 0.2 percent in January, rose 1.3 percent in February. The fuel oil index rose 5.8 percent, the index for natural gas advanced 3.4 percent, and the electricity index increased 0.4 percent. The index for gasoline has risen 19.2 percent over the last 12 months; the household energy index has increased 1.4 percent over that span, with the fuel oil and electricity indexes rising but the index for natural gas declining.

Core CPI: All Items Less Food and Energy

The index for all items less food and energy rose 0.2 percent in February, the same increase as in January, with most of its major components posting increases. The shelter index rose 0.1 percent in February, with rent and owners’ equivalent rent both also rising 0.1 percent. After declining in January, the new vehicles index rose 1.0 percent in February, its largest increase since October 2009. The medical care index rose 0.4 percent in February after a 0.1 percent increase in January. The index for medical care commodities rose 0.7 percent and the medical care services index advanced 0.4 percent. The index for airline fares increased 2.1 percent in February, its fourth consecutive monthly increase of over two percent. The index for recreation rose 0.3 percent, its second straight monthly increase. The indexes for household furnishings and operations and for used cars and trucks both edged up 0.1 percent in February. In contrast to these increases, the apparel index turned down in February, declining 0.9 percent after increasing 1.0 percent in January.

The index for all items less food and energy increased 1.1 percent over the last 12 months. The shelter index has gone up 0.8 percent over that time period with the rent index up 1.1 percent. The indexes for airline fares, medical care, new vehicles, and used cars and trucks were among the indexes that increased over that span. Indexes that declined include household furnishings and operations, apparel, and recreation.

Not Seasonally Adjusted CPI Measures

The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 2.1 percent over the last 12 months to an index level of 221.309 (1982-84=100). For the month, the index increased 0.5 percent prior to seasonal adjustment.

The Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) increased 2.3 percent over the last 12 months to an index level of 217.535 (1982-84=100). For the month, the index rose 0.5 percent prior to seasonal adjustment.

The Chained Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (C-CPI-U) increased 2.0 percent over the last 12 months. For the month, the index increased 0.5 percent on a not seasonally adjusted basis. Please note that the indexes for the post-2009 period are subject to revision.

The Consumer Price Index for March 2011 is scheduled to be released on Friday, April 15, 2011, at 8:30 a.m. (NYSE:EDT).