PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Pamela Howard plays an important role in gathering data that determines the rate of inflation.

She works as a economic assistant for the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that produces the Consumer Price Index (CPI). Target 12 followed Howard down several aisles as she price-checked specific items on her tablet.

“For this store I have eight items, but it depends on the store. Sometime we can have 15 items,” she said.

The data collected by Howard, along with hundreds of other economic assistants, helps determine the CPI, a measurement that tracks whether the cost of goods and services have trended up or down over the past year.

“The Consumer Price Index affects school lunches, pensions, Social Security and some of the property managers use the consumer prize index to adjust rents,” she said.

This year the rate of inflation has been followed closely since it reached a 40-year high. Economists believe the relief money the government pumped out during the pandemic played a role in the rising inflation we’re currently seeing.

In September, the CPI measured at 8.2% over the previous 12 months before the seasonal adjustment.

The Federal Reserve has had to boost interest rates three times this year in an effort to cool inflation. The Fed is expected to meet again in November, and it’s expected to raise rates again.

Doing so has an effect on things like mortgage rates and interest rates on credit cards.

Howard told Target 12 she takes her job seriously because she knows how important it is.

“People need to know, the government needs to know, what the consumers are paying,” she added. “Lately, our agency has been in the forefront as far as the data that’s been produced.”