4.7.1 Measuring Inflation

Understand how inflation is measured using the Consumer Price Index (CPI), its impact on the economy, and how various economic factors are influenced by changing inflation rates.

4.7.1 Measuring Inflation

Measuring Inflation

The inflation rate indicates the percentage of change in the average level of prices over a specified period. It is most commonly measured using the Consumer Price Index (CPI). CPI tracks how the average price of a representative basket of goods and services purchased by a typical Canadian household changes over time—either monthly or annually.

Calculating the Consumer Price Index (CPI)

The CPI compares the prices of a fixed basket of goods and services to a base year. Currently, in Canada, the base year is 2002, assigned a value of 100. By end of December 2019, the total CPI was 136.4, indicating that the same basket of goods that cost 100 units in 2002 now costs 36.4% more.

$$ x\\mathit{Inflation Rate} = \left( \frac{\mathit{CPI_{Current Period}} - \mathit{CPI_{Previous Period}}}{\mathit{CPI_{Previous Period}}} \right) \times 100\\ $$

Example Calculation

Let’s calculate the inflation rate using the following CPI data:

  • Total CPI in March 2020: 136.6
  • Total CPI in March 2019: 135.4
$$ \mathit{Inflation Rate} = \left( \frac{136.6 - 135.4}{135.4} \right) \times 100 ≈ 0.89\\ $$

Therefore, the inflation rate for this period is approximately 0.89%.

Understanding the Consumer Price Index (CPI)

Statistics Canada compiles a fictional basket of approximately 600 different goods and services to monitor retail price changes. Each item in the basket is weighted to represent typical consumer spending. The goal is to ensure that the CPI basket reflects the average spending behavior of a typical Canadian household. However, given the diverse spending habits across different demographics, it is challenging to represent everyone accurately.

Historical Context of Canadian Inflation

Here are some historical insights:

  • In 1981, Canada’s inflation rate peaked at 12.2%
  • In July 2009, the inflation rate plummeted to -0.9%
  • Due to actions by the Bank of Canada, there were dramatic declines in inflation during the early 1980s and 1990s.
  • The inflation rate dropped briefly to -0.2% in April 2020 and -0.4% in June 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Costs of Inflation

Inflation has several detrimental effects on the economy:

  1. Erodes Standard of Living: This is particularly problematic for individuals on fixed incomes, such as retirees reliant on government pensions. On the other hand, those whose incomes can increase with inflation, whether through higher wages or adjusted investment strategies, face less impact.
  2. Reduces Real Value of Investments: Fixed-rate loans and investments devalue because the money repaid buys less than it did initially. Borrowers can offset this by rising incomes, but lenders may demand higher interest rates to lend money.
  3. Distorts Price Signals: High inflation makes it hard to discern whether price increases reflect actual supply and demand changes or are a result of inflation.
  4. Triggers Economic Instability: Accelerating inflation typically results in rising interest rates and recessionary pressures, leading to severe economic cycles of expansion and contraction.
  5. Government Interventions to Curb Inflation: These often result in higher interest rates and increased unemployment, negatively affecting economic growth. This is explored further in the chapter on monetary policy.

Key Takeaways

  • Inflation Rate: A measure of the percentage change in the average price level over time, often tracked using the CPI.
  • Consumer Price Index (CPI): A metric for tracking price changes in a fixed basket of goods and services relative to a base year.
  • Impact of Inflation: Diverse effects on standard of living, purchasing power, price signals, financial stability, and broader economic health.
  • Government Role: Policy actions to control inflation, while necessary, can also slow economic growth and increase unemployment.


  • Inflation Rate: The rate at which the general level of prices for goods and services rises, eroding purchasing power.
  • Consumer Price Index (CPI): An index tracking the cost variance of an average basket of goods and services over time.
  • Base Year: A reference year used as a benchmark for comparing price levels.
  • Fixed-Rate Loans: Loans with interest rates that remain constant throughout the term of the loan.
  • Monetary Policy: The macroeconomic policy laid down by the central bank involving the management of money supply and interest rates.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Why is the CPI important for understanding inflation? A: CPI provides a clear, standardized measure of changes in the cost of living by tracking the prices of a representative basket of goods and services.

Q: How does inflation affect fixed-income individuals? A: Inflation erodes their purchasing power since their income doesn’t increase to keep pace with rising costs.

Q: What factors can cause the inflation rate to spike or drop significantly? A: Economic events, supply and demand disparities, and policy decisions, such as those by the Bank of Canada or global crises like the COVID-19 pandemic, can significantly influence inflation rates.

Explore more details in Chapter 5, where monetary policy and its impact on the economy is thoroughly discussed.

CSC® Exams Practice Questions

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Welcome to the Knowledge Checkpoint! You'll find 10 carefully curated CSC exam practice questions designed to reinforce the key concepts covered. These questions will help you gauge your grasp of the material, identify areas that need further review, and ensure you're on the right track towards mastering the content for the Canadian Securities certification exams. Take your time, think critically, and use these quizzes as a tool to enhance your learning journey. 📘✨

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markdown ## What is the Consumer Price Index (CPI)? - [ ] A measure of average stock price changes - [ ] A metric for measuring economic growth - [x] A measure of the average price of a basket of goods and services - [ ] A index for calculating unemployment rate > **Explanation:** The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a widely used measure of inflation that monitors how the average price of a basket of goods and services, purchased by a typical Canadian household, changes over time. ## What base year is currently used for CPI calculations in Canada? - [ ] 1990 - [ ] 2000 - [x] 2002 - [ ] 2010 > **Explanation:** In Canada, the base year used for calculating the CPI is 2002 which is given a value of 100. ## If the CPI in March 2020 was 136.6 and the CPI in March 2019 was 135.4, what was the inflation rate? - [ ] 0.75% - [x] 0.89% - [ ] 1.00% - [ ] 1.25% > **Explanation:** The inflation rate is calculated with the formula: \( \frac{CPI \text{ Current Period} - CPI \text{ Previous Period}}{CPI \text{ Previous Period}} \times 100 \). Plugging in the values: \( \frac{136.6 - 135.4}{135.4} \times 100 = 0.89\% \). ## What does a CPI value of 136.4 at the end of December 2019 indicate? - [ ] Prices decreased 36.4% since 2002 - [x] Prices increased 36.4% since 2002 - [ ] Inflation was 136.4% in December 2019 - [ ] Deflation occurred by 36.4% since 2002 > **Explanation:** A CPI value of 136.4 indicates that the basket of goods cost 36.4% more in December 2019 than it did in the base year of 2002. ## How many different goods and services are included in Statistics Canada’s basket for CPI monitoring? - [ ] 60 - [ ] 160 - [ ] 360 - [x] 600 > **Explanation:** Statistics Canada monitors the retail price of a fictional basket of goods comprising 600 different goods and services to calculate the CPI. ## Why does inflation reduce the real value of fixed-rate loans? - [ ] Because loans have to be paid back at higher interest rates - [ ] Because inflation increases the nominal value of loans - [x] Because loans are paid back in dollars that buy less - [ ] Because inflation reduces the nominal value of loans > **Explanation:** Inflation reduces the real value of fixed-rate loans because they are paid back in dollars that can buy less than when the loan was originated. ## What was the highest inflation rate recorded in Canada in recent history? - [ ] 15.0% in 1985 - [x] 12.2% in 1981 - [ ] 10.5% in 1990 - [ ] 8.3% in 2000 > **Explanation:** In recent history, Canada’s inflation rate reached a high of 12.2% in 1981. ## What happens to interest rates and the economy when inflation accelerates? - [x] Interest rates rise and a recession may occur - [ ] Interest rates fall and economic growth occurs - [ ] Interest rates remain unchanged and the economy stabilizes - [ ] Interest rates fluctuate randomly, causing economic uncertainty > **Explanation:** Accelerating inflation typically leads to rising interest rates and often results in a recession. ## How did the coronavirus pandemic impact Canada's inflation rate in April and June 2020? - [ ] Inflation remained positive - [ ] Inflation rate reached a high of 12.2% - [ ] Inflation rate remained stable - [x] Inflation rate dropped to negative values > **Explanation:** Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the inflation rate in Canada dropped to a negative value of -0.2% in April 2020 and -0.4% in June 2020. ## What is a major cost of inflation on the economy? - [ ] It stabilizes the economy - [x] It erodes the standard of living, particularly for people on fixed incomes - [ ] It increases the real value of investments - [ ] It improves the accuracy of price signals > **Explanation:** Inflation erodes the standard of living, particularly for people on fixed incomes, such as retired individuals who rely on a government pension.

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