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EXPLANATION OF TABLES.
The general statistical tables of this report are three in number, entitled as follows:
I.-Wholesale prices of commodities from January to December, 1910.
II.-Average yearly actual and relative prices of commodities, 1890 to 1910, and monthly actual and relative prices, January to December, 1910, and base prices (average for 1890–1899).
III.-Yearly relative prices of commodities, 1890 to 1910, and monthly relative prices, January to December, 1910.
Table 1.- Wholesale prices of commodities, January to December, 1910, pages 362 to 411.—This table shows in detail the actual prices from January to December, 1910, as obtained for the several commodities embraced by this report.
In 1901 the Bureau of Labor collected data relating to the wholesale prices of the principal staple commodities sold in the United States for the period from 1890 to 1901, inclusive. The actual prices for the 12 years and the relative prices computed therefrom were published in Bulletin No. 39, issued in March, 1902. The purpose of the investigation was to furnish a continuous record of wholesale prices and to show the changes in the general price level from year to year. The investigation thus begun has been continued each year and the results published in the March issue of the Bulletin to show actual prices for the year immediately preceding and relative prices for the period since 1890. The present Bulletin contains actual prices for January to December, 1910, and relative prices for the 21 years from 1890 to 1910.
In these reports wholesale prices have been presented for a large number of carefully selected representative staple articles secured in representative markets of the United States. That it would be impossible to secure prices for all articles in all markets is obvious. In the present report prices are given for 257 articles. With few exceptions these articles are of the same description as those which have been covered in the preceding reports on this subject, though several commodities shown in the data for 1908 to 1910 were not included in previous years.
There is not space within a Bulletin article to publish in full the actual prices for all commodities for the entire 21-year period. Prices for 1890 to 1909 may be found, however, in preceding March Bulletins of this Bureau.
It is important that the greatest care be exercised in the choice of commodities in order that a simple average of their relative prices shall show a general price level, and it has been the aim of the Bureau to select only important and representative articles in each group.
The use of a large number of articles, carefully selected, minimizes the effect on the general price level of an unusual change in the price of any one article or of a few articles. It will be seen that more than one series of prices have been given in the case of articles of great importance. This has been done for the purpose of giving weight to these important commodities, no other method of accomplishing this having been found satisfactory by the Bureau. The same means have been employed by Mr. Sauerbeck in his English prices, as explained in Bulletin No. 39, and the approximate accuracy of the same, as an indication of the variation of prices, has been proved by various tests based on the amount of production, etc.
Various methods of weighting have been attempted in connection with compilations of relative prices. One method employed by European statisticians is to measure the importance of each commodity by its annual consumption by the entire nation, the annual consumption being found by adding to the home production the amount imported and subtracting the amount exported. The method employed by the Bureau of Labor in its publication of Retail Prices of Food in the Eighteenth Annual Report and in Bulletins 59, 65, 71, and 77, consisted in giving to the various articles of food an importance based upon their average consumption in normal families. While it was possible to determine the relative importance as far as the consumption of food is concerned, there are, of course, many commodities the importance of which can not be measured by this method. The impossibility of securing even approximately accurate figures for annual consumption in the United States of the commodities included in this compilation renders this method unavailable for the Bureau.
It has been thought best in the present series of index numbers, after a careful consideration of all methods of weighting, to use simply a large number of representative staple articles, selecting them in such a manner as to make them, to a large extent, weight themselves. Upon a casual examination it may seem that by this method a comparatively unimportant commodity--such, for instance, as tea-has been given the same weight or importance as one of the more important commodities, such as wheat. A closer examination, however, discloses the fact that tea enters into no other commodity under consideration, while wheat is not only quoted in the raw state, but enters into the two descriptions of wheat flour, the two descriptions of crackers, and the three descriptions of loaf bread.
In securing these prices an effort has been made to include staple commodities only. In a number of instances it was found possible to continue prices for the same commodities that were included in the Report on Wholesale Prices, Wages, and Transportation, submitted by Mr. Aldrich, from the Senate Committee on Finance, March 3, 1893. . Many articles which were included in that report are no longer manu
factured, or, if still manufactured, have ceased to be important factors in the market. On the other hand, a number of articles not shown in that report have become of such importance as to render necessary their inclusion in any study of the course of prices.
Although in the case of commodities of great importance more than one series of quotations have been used, in no case has an article of a particular description been represented by more than one series of quotations from the same market. For this reason the terms "series of quotations” and “commodities” have been used interchangeably in this report.
In the record of prices from 1890 to 1910, 236 series of quotations have been presented for the entire period and an additional 36 for some portion of the period. Of the latter number, 15 articles have been discontinued, as follows: No quotations are shown for imported tin plate since 1898; for Ashton's salt since 1903; for beaver overcoatings since 1905; for sun-dried apples, nutmegs, cotton and wool blankets, split boots, men's 84-needle hose, linen thread, all-wool chinchilla overcoatings, shawls, Atlantic brown sheetings, Hope bleached sheetings, and indigo 16-ounce suitings since 1907; nor for cotton warp chinchilla overcoatings since 1908. The actual prices of the above-named articles are not shown in any table in this presentation, and those wishing to secure them for the years for which quoted may do so by consulting preceding March Bulletins. As may be seen by reference to Table II, 2 articles were quoted for the first time in 1892, 2 in 1893, 1 in 1894, 3 in 1895, 1 in 1896, 1 in 1897, and 11 in 1908.
In all there are 257 series of quotations in the present report.
Material changes in the description of 3 articles were made in 1902, of 2 articles in 1903, of 1 article in 1904, of 5 articles in 1905, of 7 articles in 1906, of 3 articles in 1907, of 19 articles in 1908, of 1 article in 1909, and of 2 articles in 1910. For 7 of these articles the trade journals no longer supply satisfactory quotations, the manufacture of the particular grades of 13 previously quoted has been discontinued by the establishments heretofore furnishing quotations, and for 23 articles the substituted descriptions more nearly represent the present demands of the trade.
In making these substitutions, articles were supplied corresponding as closely as possible to those which were previously used.
The prices quoted in every instance are wholesale prices. Wholesale prices have invariably been used in compilations made for the purpose of showing changes in the general price level of all commodities. They are more sensitive than retail prices and more quickly reflect changes in conditions, and, too, it is much more difficult to follow the changes in the quality of commodities quoted in retail prices than in wholesale prices. Retail prices usually follow the wholesale, but not always in the same proportion. The margin between them in the case of some commodities is so great that slight changes in the wholesale price do not affect the retail price. Changes in the wholesale price, which last for a short time only, do not usually result in corresponding changes in the retail price.
The net cash prices are shown for textiles and all articles whose list prices are subject to large and varying discounts. In the case of a number of articles, such as white pine, nails, etc., however, whose prices are subject to a small discount for cash, no deduction has been made.
The prices have been collected from the best available sourcesstandard trade journals for 131 articles, officials of boards of trade for 9 articles, chambers of commerce for 1 article, produce exchanges for 7 articles, leading manufacturers or their selling agents for 108 articles, and a Government bureau for 1 article.
About one-half of the prices quoted are the prices in the New York market. For grains, live stock, etc., Chicago prices are quoted; for fish, except salmon, Boston prices; for tar, Wilmington (N. C.) prices; for Elgin creamery butter, Elgin (Ill.) prices, etc. The prices for textiles are the prices in the general distributing markets, such as New York, Boston, and Philadelphia; and where no market is mentioned in the prefatory note to the article in Table I it should be understood that the prices are for the general market.
The following table shows the different markets represented and the number of articles in each group quoted for each market:
NUMBER OF COMMODITIES OR SERIES OF QUOTATIONS CLASSIFIED BY MARKETS
FOR WHICH SECURED, 1910.
As regards the description of the commodity it should be stated that the greatest care has been taken to secure prices throughout the period from 1890 to 1910 for a commodity of precisely the same description. Changes in quality are, of course,' reflected in prices, and for this reason note has been made of any important changes which have occurred. In the case of certain commodities, such as butter, eggs, etc., prices for the best quality have been taken in order to avoid frequent changes in grade. should also be stated in this connection that in the case of commodities for which prices were secured from the Oil, Paint, and Drug Reporter the lowest quotations were taken where a range of prices was found, because of the fact that in that publication these represent the prices of large lots, while the highest quotations represent the prices of smaller lots.
Weekly quotations have been secured in the case of all articles which are subject to frequent fluctuations in price, such as butter, cheese, eggs, grain, live stock, meats, etc. In the case of articles whose prices are more stable, monthly quotations have been taken. The following table shows the number of series of weekly and monthly price quotations:
NUMBER OF COMMODITIES OR SERIES OF QUOTATIONS, CLASSIFIED AS TO THEIR
FREQUENCY OF QUOTATION, 1910.
The character of each series of quotations as regards frequency is shown in all cases in Table I in a prefatory note, which states the date of the quotations and, if weekly, whether the quotations are for some particular day of the week, the average for the week, or the range for the week. The majority of the weekly quotations show the price on Tuesday, and if for any reason Tuesday's price was not obtainable the first price in the week has been taken. The quotations from trade and other journals, when credited to the first of each month, are not in all instances the price for the exact day stated, as it is a common practice of the daily papers which make a specialty of market reports to devote certain days to the review of the market of certain articles. For example, the Boston Herald quotes fish on Saturday only. The prices are, however, the earliest prices quoted in the journal to which the article is credited. It should also be