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Feb 2 -- The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) invites comments to OMB by March 4, 2022 concerning the extension of the International Price Program (IPP) U.S. Import and Export Price Indexes.
 
The U.S. Import and Export Price Indexes, produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics' International Price Program (IPP), measure price change over time for all categories of imported and exported products, as well as selected services. The IPP has produced the U.S. Import Price Indexes (MPI) continuously since 1973 and the U.S. Export Price Indexes (XPI) continuously since 1971. The Office of Management and Budget has listed the Import and Export Price Indexes (MXPI) as a Principal Federal Economic Indicator since 1982. The indexes are widely used in both the public and private sectors. The primary public sector use is the deflation of the U.S. monthly trade statistics and the quarterly estimates of U.S. Gross Domestic Product; the indexes also are used in formulating U.S. trade policy and in trade negotiations with other countries. In the private sector, uses of the Import Price Indexes include market analysis, inflation forecasting, contract escalation, and replacement cost accounting.

The MXPI are closely followed statistics, and are viewed as a key indicator of the economic environment. The U.S. Department of Commerce uses the monthly statistics to produce monthly and quarterly estimates of inflation-adjusted trade flows. Without continuation of data collection, it would be extremely difficult to construct accurate estimates of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product. In fact, a budget proposal to curtail publication of the export price indexes beginning in FY15 was met with resistance from the Commerce Department who explained that a viable substitute is not available. The Beyond the Numbers article “Analyzing alternatives to export price indexes” (http://www.bls.gov/​opub/​btn/​volume-3/​analyzing-alternatives-to-export-price-indexes.htm) explores alternatives to using BLS' export price indexes to deflate the U.S. Gross Domestic Product and explains why there are currently no comparable replacements.

Additionally, Federal policymakers in the Department of Treasury, the Council of Economic Advisers, and the Federal Reserve Board utilize these statistics on a regular basis to improve these agencies' formulation and evaluation of monetary and fiscal policy and evaluation of the general business environment. Office of Management and Budget clearance is being sought for the U.S. Import and Export Price Indexes. The IPP continues to modernize data collection and processing to permit more timely release of its indexes, and to reduce reporter burden. The IPP has expanded the use of its web application, introduced in 2003, and in 2018, it replaced the mail out and fax back of paper forms as IPP's primary repricing method. The web application allows respondents to update their data online and more rapidly than using a paper-based form. As of September 2021, 93 percent of IPP respondents were providing prices via the web application or had agreed to start using this repricing method. Respondents who provide price information using non-web options do so via non-automated telephone, special arrangements between the analysts and respondents, or email.
 
The IPP has implemented several systems changes over the years in order to reduce burden for web respondents. Most recently, the IPP adopted the use of a new web application format/layout (deployed in 2019). Previously, the web survey used separate pages for each part of the repricing process; now, the web application utilizes modal windows in combination with separate pages.

Of particular note,  the Program has been conducting research into whether administrative trade data can be used in place of directly collected price data for more homogenous product areas. The calculation of indexes using transaction trade data presents the challenge of unit value bias, the measurement of price trends reflecting changes in product mix within a unit instead of price changes for the products in that unit. However, IPP has applied new methods to mitigate this bias and identify homogenous product areas where unit value bias is less of a concern. As part of this effort, IPP published research export unit value price indexes calculated using Census’ trade data and will soon begin researching the use of administrative trade data on the import side. Should IPP’s research efforts result in the replacement of directly collected (import or export) data with trade data collected by other government agencies, the Program would achieve a milestone in burden reduction. More details are available on the MXP Research page (https://www.bls.gov/mxp/data/research.htm).
 
MXPI website: https://www.bls.gov/respondents/mxp/home.htm
MXPI submission to OMB: https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/PRAViewICR?ref_nbr=202111-1220-001 Click on IC List for survey instruments, View Supporting Statement for technical documentation. Submit comments through this site.
FR notice inviting comments: https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2022/02/02/2022-02098/agency-information-collection-activities-submission-for-omb-review-comment-request-international   
 
For AEA members wishing to submit comments, "A Primer on How to Respond to Calls for Comment on Federal Data Collections" is available at https://www.aeaweb.org/content/file?id=5806

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