Poring over inflation with the Consumer Price Index in hand

Paul sez,
I just spent some quality time poring over the latest Consumer Price Index (CPI) tables, which are reported each month by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and determine the U.S. inflation rate. According to the release, prices for urban residents have risen 4.0% over the past year, and it's fun to look at the different numbers and see how they contribute to the overall result.

For example, in the Transportation category (up 8.2%), a dramatic increase in Gasoline prices (26%) is balanced in part by a more heavily-weighted decline in the cost of New vehicles (-1.1%). In the Food and beverages category (up 4.4%), relatively modest increases in Meats, poultry, fish, and eggs (3.8%) and in Fruits and vegetables (1.7%) are counteracted by sharper increases in Cereals and baking products (8.1%) and in Dairy and related products (11%).

Meanwhile, the entire index is pulled lower by something called "Owners' equivalent rent of primary residence," in the Housing category, which accounts for 23.942% of all expenditures and rose 2.6%. I'm a layperson in economics and statistics, but I'm hooked-- I'm looking forward to seeing April's numbers, which come out May 14.

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