Measuring the Health of the Economy

Read this section to understand more about economic growth. Looking at GDP alone does not give much of an indication of the health of an economy. It is the change in GDP that is relevant. If GDP goes up, the economy is growing. This positive movement is what we want as we leave behind the most recent recession. Complete the exercises at the end of the section.

Economic Goals

The Consumer Price Index

The most widely publicized measure of inflation is the consumer price index (CPI), which is reported monthly by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The CPI measures the rate of inflation by determining price changes of a hypothetical basket of goods, such as food, housing, clothing, medical care, appliances, automobiles, and so forth, bought by a typical household.

The CPI base period is 1982 to 1984, which has been given an average value of 100. Table 1.1 "Selected CPI Values, 1950–2010" gives CPI values computed for selected years. The CPI value for 1950, for instance, is 24. This means that $1 of typical purchases in 1982 through 1984 would have cost $0.24 in 1950. Conversely, you would have needed $2.18 to purchase the same $1 worth of typical goods in 2010. The difference registers the effect of inflation. In fact, that’s what an inflation rate is – the percentage change in a price index.

You can find out the current CPI by going to the CNNMoney Web site and click on "Economy" and then on "Inflation (CPI)".

Table 1.1 Selected CPI Values, 1950–2010

Year 1950 1960 1970 1980 1990 2000 2001 2002
CPI 24.1 29.1 38.8 82.4 130.7 172.2 177.1 179.9
Year 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
CPI 184.0 188.9 195.3 201.6 207.3 215.3 214.15 218.1