Visualization: Consumer Price Index and inflation

The Consumer Price Index is the most widely used measure of inflation. This interactive visualization presents all CPI data.

Inflation — an increase in prices — is captured by the Consumer Price Index. It is computed using a market basked “developed from detailed expenditure information provided by families and individuals on what they actually bought.” (1)Consumer Price Index Frequently Asked Questions. Available at

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, part of the United States Department of Labor, maintains the index. The page at BLS for this data is Consumer Price Index.

Click for larger.
Besides “the” CPI, many subsets track price levels for specific sets of goods and services and for different geographic areas. While described as measuring inflation, rising prices are not always the case. For example, the index for major appliances was 100.000 in July 1997. In May 2021 it was 96.510, indicating a decline in prices, although on an erratic path, as can be seen in the nearby example from the visualization.

This visualization is a work in progress. There are over four thousand series, and presenting them in an organized fashion is a challenge. The best tabs to use are Chart 1, Chart 2, and Chart 3. The nearby illustration shows Chart 2. In these charts, I show the percentage, not absolute, change in CPI.

This visualization holds monthly values. For the charts, you may select one area at a time. The most commonly-used series is the U.S. City Average.

The tabs for Series, Items, Areas, and Periods hold tables describing data that BLS provides.

To access this intaeractive visualization, click here.

For more visualizations, click here.

Example from the visualization. Click for larger.


1 Consumer Price Index Frequently Asked Questions. Available at