January 13, 2022

The Bureau of Labor Statistics is going to fudge it on inflation in 2022

Interesting: the Bureau of Labor Statistics has a couple of Notices on their Consumer Price Index page. One note indicates that "Starting in January 2022, weights for the Consumer Price Index will be calculated based on consumer expenditure data from 2019-2020. The BLS considered interventions, but decided to maintain normal procedures."   That's interesting. During the COVID lockdowns people bought a lot more toilet paper initially, but the most impactful change would be the reduction of fuel usage, particularly gasoline, as people were forced to stay at home, vastly reducing fuel expenditures.  This as fuel prices have started to skyrocket in 2021 and 2022. In other words, they are going to try to dampen or hide the inflation numbers they are going to share by treating it as a smaller factor in consumer spend, by using fuel expenditures during the height of COVID lockdowns as part of the calculation.  During COVID that share of spend most definitely shrunk, dramatically. That effect will take about two years to work it's way through the system, disappearing in a presidential election year.

Let's Go Brandon.

The other note states "Each year with the release of the January CPI, seasonal adjustment factors are recalculated to reflect price movements from the just-completed calendar year. This routine annual recalculation may result in revisions to seasonally adjusted indexes for the previous 5 years. Recalculated seasonally adjusted indexes as well as recalculated seasonal adjustment factors for the period January 2017 through December 2021 will be made available on Tuesday, February 8, 2022."

This one is a bit trickier because they have not yet posted any of the adjustments as of yet. What they do is take an item in a basket of consumer goods like say potatoes, and adjust it's cost impact based on the month of the year.  In January for example they might see it at 98.928 and in July at 103.920 but seasonally adjusted factors to smooth the months, it might be factored instead at 98.921 in January and 103.946 in July.  This sort of tweaking is done to smooth the rate towards a more annualized sort of number and make it less volatile.

That alone is not a problem.  The issue arises when they use it for politics.  There are so many items that factor into the total number that it is fairly easy to hide the fudging.  And keep in mind that this is something they typically do annually. It may amount to nothing.  It may even be a distraction from their other note.  But if some of the numbers are significantly different from what they used in 2021, it is a sign of malfeasance. The problem is that it will probably be  hard to find.   Stay tuned.

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