Consumer price inflation, UK: January 2019

Price indices, percentage changes and weights for the different measures of consumer price inflation.

This is the latest release. View previous releases

This is an accredited national statistic.

Contact:
Email Andy King

Release date:
13 February 2019

Next release:
20 March 2019

1. Main points

  • The Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers’ housing costs (CPIH) 12-month inflation rate was 1.8% in January 2019, down from 2.0% in December 2018.

  • The largest downward contribution to the change in the 12-month rate came from electricity, gas and other fuels, with prices overall falling between December 2018 and January 2019 compared with price rises the same time a year ago.

  • These downward effects were partially offset by air fares, with prices falling between December 2018 and January 2019 by less than a year ago.

  • The Consumer Prices Index (CPI) 12-month rate was 1.8% in January 2019, down from 2.1% in December 2018.

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2. Things you need to know about this release

The National Statistics status of the Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers’ housing costs (CPIH) was reinstated on 31 July 2017. A letter from the Director General for Regulation to the National Statistician detailed the actions that were taken to meet the requirements as set out in the CPIH assessment report.

We have illustrated our future approach to measuring changing prices and costs faced by consumers and households using three “use cases”, along with how they relate to the measures that we currently publish and those that are under development. Specifically, they refer to the CPIH as our lead measure of inflation based on economic principles; the Household Costs Indices (HCIs, currently under development with preliminary estimates published for the first time on 19 December 2017) as a set of measures to reflect the change in costs as experienced by households; and the Retail Prices Index (RPI) as a legacy measure that is required to meet existing user needs. Shortcomings of the Retail Prices Index as a measure of inflation, released on 8 March 2018, describes the issues with the RPI.

Consumer price inflation is the rate at which the prices of goods and services bought by households rise or fall. It is estimated by using price indices. One way to understand this is to think of a shopping basket containing all the goods and services bought by households. Movements in price indices represent the changing cost of this basket. Consumer price indices – a brief guide gives an overview of the indices and their uses.

The most common approach to measuring inflation is the 12-month inflation rate, which compares prices for the latest month with the same month a year ago. In any given month, the 12-month rate is determined by the balance between upward and downward price movements of the range of goods and services included in the index.

This release also examines how the various types of goods and services contribute to the change in the 12-month inflation rate between the latest two months. The size and direction of these contributions depends on how prices changed between both the latest two months this year and the same two months last year. For example, the price of a product could make an upward contribution to the change in the rate even if it fell, provided that it fell by less than it did between the same two months a year ago. Explaining the contribution to change in the 12-month rate (2013) covers this concept in more detail.

The CPIH is the most comprehensive measure of inflation. It extends the CPI to include a measure of the costs associated with owning, maintaining and living in one’s own home, known as owner occupiers’ housing costs (OOH), along with Council Tax. Both of these are significant expenses for many households and are not included in the CPI.

Aside from including OOH and Council Tax, CPIH is otherwise identical to CPI. This means that, aside from these two components, the factors contributing to the CPI rate are the same as those contributing to the CPIH. For example, if food is reported as increasing the CPIH rate, it is also acting to increase the CPI rate. The size of the contributions for components other than OOH and Council Tax are exaggerated in the CPI compared with the CPIH because they account for a larger proportion of the overall index.

The CPI is produced at the same level of detail as CPIH, in the accompanying dataset and time series.

The Retail Prices Index (RPI) does not meet the required standard for designation as National Statistics. In recognition that it continues to be widely used in contracts, we continue to publish the RPI, its sub-components and RPIX. To view the all-items RPI and 12-month inflation rate and an at-a-glance comparison with other measures, please see the time series section of the inflation and price indices area of our website. The accompanying dataset and time series provide more detailed information.

The figures in this publication use data collected on or around 8 January 2019.

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3. CPIH 12-month inflation rate eased further in January 2019

The Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers’ housing costs (CPIH) 12-month rate was 1.8% in January 2019, down from 2.0% in December 2018.

Figure 1 compares the 12-month inflation rates for CPIH and the Consumer Prices Index (CPI), along with the rate for the owner occupiers’ housing costs (OOH) component of CPIH. Given that OOH accounts for around 16% of CPIH, it is the main driver for differences between the CPIH and CPI inflation rates.

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4. Most broad categories continue to make upward contributions to inflation

Figure 2 shows that price movements for most of the broad categories of goods and services had an upward effect on the Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers’ housing costs (CPIH) 12-month rate in January 2019. The exception was clothing and footwear, which had a small downward pull on the rate, with prices falling by 1.3% in the year to January 2019.

The largest upward contribution to the CPIH 12-month rate in January 2019 came from housing and household services, with prices rising by 1.4% on the year. However, in January 2019, the upward contribution (to the CPIH 12-month rate) reduced to 0.43 percentage points, from 0.62 percentage points in December 2018. This reduction was largely due to a smaller contribution to the 12-month rate from gas and electricity prices. Within this broad group, the largest contributions were from owner occupiers’ housing costs (a 0.19 percentage point contribution to the CPIH 12-month rate); and council tax and rates (a contribution of 0.12 percentage points). Electricity, gas and other fuels and actual rentals for housing each contributed 0.05 percentage points.

Other large upward contributions came from transport, recreation and culture, and from restaurants and hotels. Further reductions in fuel prices continued the downward trend in contributions from transport that began in September 2018. Within these categories, the most notable contributions were from package holidays, catering services and the operation of personal transport equipment.

Figure 3 shows the extent to which the different categories of goods and services have contributed to the overall CPIH 12-month rate over the last two years. Transport, and food and non-alcoholic beverages prices have been important factors in driving the changes in the rate. As the overall CPIH rate began to level off from April 2017, the contribution from food and non-alcoholic beverages continued to increase, being offset by a fall in the contribution from transport, particularly motor fuels.

The contributions from most of the categories began to fall back in the early months of 2018, leading to a fall in the 12-month rate. However, the pattern has been more mixed since spring 2018, reflecting the relative stability in the headline rate. For example, the contributions from food and non-alcoholic beverages, and clothing and footwear have broadly continued to decline throughout the year. The contribution from transport has fluctuated, rising between April and August 2018 then gradually falling back before December’s larger fall. This compares with housing and household services, where the contribution has risen slowly over 2018 following increases to utility bills. This month’s fall in gas and electricity prices has seen the contribution from housing and household services reduce, which in turn helped to reduce the CPIH 12-month rate to its lowest level since November 2016.

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5. Gas and electricity prices contribute the largest change to CPIH 12-month rate

Figure 4 shows how each of the main groups of goods and services contributed to the change in the Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers’ housing costs (CPIH) 12-month rate between December 2018 and January 2019. The corresponding figures for the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) can be found in column F of Table 26 in the Consumer price inflation dataset.

The largest downward contribution to the change in the CPIH 12-month rate came from housing and household services, where gas and electricity prices fell, between December 2018 and January 2019, by 8.5% and 4.9%, respectively. The downward movement partially reflected the response from energy providers to Ofgem’s January energy price cap which came into effect from 1 January 2019.

Accommodation services, within the wider restaurants and hotels division, had a large downward contribution of 0.05 percentage points to the change in the CPIH 12-month rate, with prices dropping by 2.9% between December 2018 and January 2019, compared with a smaller drop of 0.6% between December 2017 and January 2018.

Clothing and footwear had a small downward contribution to the change in the CPIH 12-month rate. The downward contribution of 0.05 percentage points from clothing was primarily due to women’s and children’s clothing, which generally saw larger price drops between December 2018 and January 2019 compared with the same time a year ago. This was partially offset by a small upward contribution from footwear, which was caused by smaller price drops for women’s shoes compared with last year.

Overall, the transport division had a small downward contribution. There was a large downward contribution to the change in the CPIH 12-month rate from motor fuels. Falling crude oil prices have led to petrol prices reducing by 2.1 pence per litre between December 2018 and January 2019, compared with a rise of 1.1 pence per litre between December 2017 and January 2018. This downward effect was partially offset by upward contributions from air fares (0.04 percentage points) and sea fares (0.03 percentage points). Prices for air fares fell by 25.5% between December 2018 and January 2019 compared with a larger fall of 33.2% between the same two months a year ago. Sea fares rose between December 2018 and January 2019 compared with a fall between December 2017 and January 2018.

Finally, there was a small upward contribution from furniture, furnishing and carpets, within the wider furniture, household equipment and maintenance category. The upward contribution (to the change in the CPIH 12-month rate) of 0.02 percentage points was a result of positive contributions from across the sector.

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6. Contribution to CPIH 12-month rate from housing and household services falls to its lowest rate since March 2016

Figure 5 shows the contribution of owner occupiers’ housing costs (OOH) and Council Tax to the Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers’ housing costs (CPIH) inflation rate in the context of wider housing-related costs. The contribution from OOH has been on a downward trend from a high in October 2016.

Utility bills made a negative contribution during 2015 and 2016 but more recent rises, most notably in electricity prices, have seen its contribution turn positive through 2017 into 2018. Further electricity and gas price rises in autumn 2018 had increased their contribution to the CPIH 12-month rate. However, in January 2019, there was a reduction to the contribution from gas and electricity prices, which partially reflected the introduction of Ofgem’s energy price cap. Increases in Council Tax starting in 2016 mean that its contribution has also increased over recent years.

The reduction in the contribution from rents is likely to be a result of a policy to reduce social housing rent starting from April 2016, whilst other housing costs (namely regular maintenance and repair, along with water and sewerage services) tend to make small contributions to the 12-month rate.

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8. Quality and methodology

The Consumer Price Inflation Quality and Methodology Information report contains important information on:

  • the strengths and limitations of the data and how it compares with related data

  • users and uses of the data

  • how the output was created

  • the quality of the output including the accuracy of the data

The Consumer Price Indices Technical Manual covers the concepts and methodologies underpinning the indices in more detail.

The CPIH Compendium provides a comprehensive source of information on the Consumer Prices Index including owner occupiers’ housing costs (CPIH), with a focus on the approach to measuring owner occupiers’ housing costs (OOH).

The Consumer price inflation basket of goods and services: 2018 article details the annual review process for the items making up the inflation basket used to calculate the UK consumer price inflation indices and describes the changes in the latest year.

Consumer price inflation, updating weights: 2018 describes the latest changes to the relative weights of items in the inflation basket to ensure they remain representative of current consumer spending patterns.

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