Seattle had the highest local inflation rate in the country — 5.8 percent — when the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics last measured our region's prices, in June. Which prices are going up the fastest, and what categories of purchases are taking the biggest bite out of local consumers' budgets?
Seattle had the highest local inflation rate in the country — 5.8 percent — when the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics last measured our region’s prices, in June. Which prices are going up the fastest, and what categories of purchases are taking the biggest bite out of local consumers’ budgets?
Here’s a closer look at the Seattle-area Consumer Price Index’s categories and the annualized inflation rate of each component. (The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics does a national CPI each month; it reports local prices every other month, in less detail.)
Among the surprises in June: Local medical costs fell while the national numbers rose, but rents here are rising much more rapidly than the U.S. average.
How they figure consumer inflation
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The Seattle CPI is derived from the same survey that produces the national CPI. Each month, data collectors from the Bureau of Labor Statistics call or visit thousands of retail outlets across the country and record the prices of some 80,000 goods and services — from breakfast cereal to bedroom furniture, software to haircuts.
What items the bureau checks — the so-called “market basket” — and where they check them are based on a national consumer-spending survey of some 35,000 families.
The “market baskets” vary somewhat from city to city, reflecting differences in regional spending patterns, and each expenditure category carries a slightly different weight. Home prices, for example, count for 25.6 percent of the Seattle CPI but 23.9 percent of the national index; rent also carries more weight here than nationally, but food (both groceries and restaurant meals) carries less.
The bureau’s workers try to price the same item each month. When they can’t, the bureau adjusts the raw data for differences in quantity and quality. It also tries to account for new features being added to old products, such as when cellphones began doing double duty as cameras.