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Shelter inflation rises up

In the US, we commonly measure inflation with the yearly change in the consumer price index (CPI), which stands at 6.3% for January 2023. As we’ve said before in the FRED Blog, a single number like this can hide a lot of variation across all the goods consumed by Americans. So let’s look at a recent, interesting twist in prices in this country.

The FRED graph above divides the CPI into two parts: prices related to shelter and all other prices. It starts at an index value of 100 in January 2022 and ends in January 2023 to show how prices evolved over the past year. Shelter-only CPI has a value of 107.9, meaning it has increased by 7.9% since January 2022. All-items-except-shelter CPI has a value of 105.7.

The price of shelter has been continuously increasing, while the price for everything else stopped increasing in June 2022 and has even decreased a bit since. Does this mean our latest inflation episode is over except for shelter? Possibly, especially because there are data-collection lags when calculating the cost of shelter. Still, is six months enough time to claim victory and is the CPI even the right measure? We leave these difficult questions for policymakers to answer.

How this graph was created: Search FRED for CPI shelter. Click on “Edit Graph,” open the “Add Line” tab, search again for CPI shelter, but this time select the CPI less shelter. Choose unit “100 for a given date,” type in 2022-01-01, and click on “Apply to all.” Finally, reduce the sample period to one year.

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

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