Tuesday, September 17, 2013

August Update: Early Look at 2014 Cost-Of-Living Adjustments suggests 1.5% increase

by Bill McBride on 9/17/2013 05:41:00 PM

The BLS reported this morning:

The Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) increased 1.5 percent over the last 12 months to an index level of 230.359 (1982-84=100). For the month, the index increased 0.1 percent prior to seasonal adjustment.

The Chained Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (C-CPI-U) increased 1.4 percent over the last 12 months. For the month, the index increased 0.1 percent on a not seasonally adjusted basis.
SPECIAL NOTE on CPI-chained: There has been some discussion of switching from CPI-W to CPI-chained for COLA. This will not happen this year, but could happen in the next year or two, and the switch would impact future Cost-of-living adjustments, see: Cost of Living and CPI-Chained

Currently CPI-W is the index that is used to calculate the Cost-Of-Living Adjustments (COLA). The calculation dates have changed over time (see Cost-of-Living Adjustments), but the current calculation uses the average CPI-W for the three months in Q3 (July, August, September) and compares to the average for the highest previous average of Q3 months. Note: this is not the headline CPI-U, and not seasonally adjusted.

Since the highest Q3 average was last year (2012), at 226.936, we only have to compare to last year. 

CPI-W and COLA Adjustment Click on graph for larger image.

This graph shows CPI-W since January 2000. The red lines are the Q3 average of CPI-W for each year.

Currently CPI-W is above the Q3 2012 average. If the current level holds (average of July and August), COLA would be around 1.5% for next year. 

Last year gasoline prices increased sharply in August and September - pushing up CPI-W for those months, and this year gasoline prices are down a little in September.  So CPI-W will probably not increase as much this year in September as in September 2012.

This is early - we need the data for September - but my current guess is COLA will be a little lower than the 1.7% increase last year.

Contribution and Benefit Base

The contribution base will be adjusted using the National Average Wage Index. This is based on a one year lag. The National Average Wage Index is not available for 2012 yet, but wages probably increased again in 2012. If wages increased the same as last year, then the contribution base next year will be increased to around $117,000 from the current $113,700.

This is an early look. What matters is average CPI-W for all three months in Q3 (July, August and September).

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