The average cost of a market basket of goods and services in the United States rose 0.3 percent in March from February according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic's Consumer Price Index (CPI). March's index of 178.6 was 1.4 percent higher than the March 2001 index of 176.1. This is the first increase in the annual inflation rate in ten months since peaking in May 2001 at 3.6 percent.
The overall index for energy costs jumped 3.8 percent in March from February, driven by higher petroleum prices. Other categories that saw increases were food and beverages (+ 0.2 percent), housing (+ 0.1 percent), apparel (+ 1.2 percent), transportation (+ 1.2 percent), medical care (+ 0.4 percent), and recreation (+ 0.2 percent). Only education and communication (- 0.5 percent) and other goods and services (- 0.6 percent) decreased.
The CPI is based on prices of food, clothing, shelter, fuels, transportation fares, charges for doctor's and dentist's services, drugs, and other goods and services that people buy for day-to-day living. Prices are collected in 87 urban areas across the country (including Kansas City and St. Louis) from about 50,000 housing units and approximately 23,000 stores, hospitals, and other types of service establishments.
The actual index is expressed as a number derived by comparing the current cost of goods and services to the cost of the same items between 1982-1984. The reference year is given a value equal to 100. Subsequent indices are expressed as a percentage of the base year.