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[Excerpt] U.S. competitiveness is measured in many different ways. However, two sets of measures that historically have been of interest in helping to assess the strength of the economy are the price trends of U.S. exports and of U.S. imports. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, the Bureau) first began publication of a limited set of export price indexes in 1971, followed 2 years later by a set of import price indexes. The Bureau developed these series in response to two key concerns, one statistical and the other economic. The statistical issue was over the validity of the import and export unit value indexes published by the Census Bureau. The economic question had to do with the nation’s ability to compete in the increasingly global economy. The publication of detailed export and import price indexes helped address these concerns because those indexes were true price indexes and because they provided a greater level of detail than the analogous indexes previously published by the Census Bureau. The number of published series increased until the Bureau was able to publish the first all-import price index in 1983, followed a year later by the first all-export price index. Although the publication of these series alleviated the need to rely upon the unit value data—indeed, the Census Bureau discontinued publication of its unit value indexes in 1989—concerns over U.S. competitiveness have only grown over time.


Suggested Citation
Alterman, W., Bennion, E., & Royales, S. (2013). Forty years of the BLS Export and Import Price Indexes: Trends and competition. Beyond the Numbers (Vol. 2, No. 24). Washington, DC: Bureau of Labor Statistics.