Have You Checked Your CPI? The Portland CPI index has been discontinued

Diana Moffat

From our February 2018 e-newsletter

Many local government agencies rely on the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) Consumer Price Index (CPI) to determine wage increases and other forms of compensation for their employees. The CPI is a measure of the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a market basket of consumer goods and services. It is used as a way to maintain relative buying power as the cost of goods and services escalate, thus keeping wages current relative to the market. The BLS publishes CPIs for two population groups: (1) the CPI for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) that comprise some 32% of the total population and (2) the CPI for all Urban Consumers (CPI-U) and the Chained CPI for All Urban Consumers (C-CPI-U), which cover 87% of the total population and includes a much broader range of workers. The BLS also publishes parts of the CPI-U and CPI-W based on large cities and/or regions of the country. For example, there is a Western Region statistic, based on the urban areas of the west, including Alaska and Hawaii. An overall western region index is published, as well as two population levels (50,000-1,500,000 population and population over 1,500,000). The Portland-Salem index, one of the regional indexes, was published twice a year, for January and July. This index is found in many Oregon union contracts. In January of 2018, the BLS revised its geographic area samples and eliminated the Portland-Salem index. The new sample consists of only 75 urban areas-large, medium, and small. There previously were 87 urban areas, including the Portland-Salem area. If you have a Collective Bargaining Agreement with your union that provides for future wage increases based on the Portland-Salem CPI index, you should contact your labor attorney to make a plan for how to move forward.