Flint, amid water crisis, to be added to Consumer Price Index survey

Reuters News
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Posted: Feb 24, 2016 12:49 PM

DETROIT (Reuters) - Flint, the Michigan city known for the high lead levels in its drinking water, will also soon begin playing a regular role in how the federal government measures inflation.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said on Wednesday that beginning in April it will collect data from residents for the Consumer Price Index (CPI) in the city known for the drinking water crisis.

Flint switched its water supply from Detroit to the Flint River in April 2014 in a cost-cutting move when the city was under a state-appointed emergency manager. While the city switched its water source back last October, the more corrosive water from the river had already leached lead from city pipes, causing a serious public health threat.

"Periodically, BLS adds new areas to the CPI sample to ensure that the CPI reflects the goods and services people buy and the places they shop," the BLS said in a statement. "Flint is one of six new areas nationwide where BLS will collect CPI data starting in 2016."

A spokesman for the office declined to say why Flint was chosen.

The CPI, the most widely used measure of inflation, tracks the average change in prices paid by urban consumers for a fixed basket of goods and services, including food, clothing, shelter, fuels, transportation, medical services and other day-to-day items.

The economic indicator is used by the U.S. government and businesses as a guide in making decisions, and is often used to adjust consumers' income payments like Social Security.

BLS representatives will soon make personal visits to hundreds of retail establishments and housing units in Flint to explain the survey, the agency said.

(Reporting by Ben Klayman; Editing by Richard Chang)