The Statistical Institute of Jamaica on Tuesday released new data on inflation which shows that the indicator is moving significantly for the first time in seven months, giving some hope that the central bank may meet its inflation target by June if the trend continues.
But this time, in a break with tradition, the agency opted to release the data at a press conference to drive public conversation about economic numbers. Usually, Statin would only publish data and the accompanying press releases on its website, on a preset schedule.
The computation of the inflation rate for March – based on the All Jamaica Consumer Price Index – was 0.8 per cent, an increase largely due to a 0.9 per cent uptick in the heavily weighted Food and Non-Alcoholic Beverages segment of the basket of goods and services constituting the Consumer Price Index (CPI).
A breakdown of the three regions surveyed by Statin showed increased movements in all three regions: the index for the Greater Kingston Metropolitan Area, or GKMA moved up by 1.0 per cent, other urban centres rose 1.0 per cent, and rural areas moved up by 0.6 per cent.
The CPI index measures change in the general level of prices of consumer goods and services purchased by private households.
Monthly inflation has been tracking at or near zero per cent in the prior four periods: November 0.0 per cent, December 0.1 per cent January 0.2 per cent, and February 0.1 per cent.
The March out-turn is a return to levels last seen in late summer and early fall: August 0.9 per cent; September 1.1 per cent, and October 0.7 per cent.
Altogether, said Statin Director General Carol Coy – who indicated that she had called the press conference to stimulate public discussion around the deep data sets being produced by the state agency – the annual inflation rate for 2018 was 2.4 per cent, the second-lowest annual rate since 1977.
The inflation rate in 2017 was 5.2 per cent.