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Economic Census

A Detailed Portrait of the U.S. Economy

The Economic Census provides a detailed portrait of the Nation's economy once every five years, from the national to the local level. The Economic Census is conducted every five years, in years ending in '2' and '7.'

The Economic Census measures business activity during the calendar year. For example, the 2007 Economic Census measured business activity during calendar year 2007. For 2007, census forms were mailed to more than 4.7 million companies with one or more paid employees in late 2007 and early 2008. All large- and medium-sized businesses receive a census form, but only a sample of small employer businesses receive a census form. For 2007, there were over 500 versions of the census form, each customized to particular industries. Nonprofit organizations, including nonprofit educational organizations, are included in the Economic Census.

Economic Census statistics are collected and published primarily by "establishment." An establishment is a business or industrial unit at a single physical location that produces or distributes goods or performs services, for example, a single store or factory. Many companies own or control more than one establishment, and those establishments may be located in different geographic areas and may be engaged in different kinds of business. By collecting separate information for each establishment, the Economic Census can include detailed data for each industry and area.

Serving the Nation - from Individuals to Corporations

The Economic Census produces a portrait of business activities in industries and communities all across our nation. Commonly used economic indicators - such as the gross domestic product and monthly retail sales - depend on the Economic Census for continued accuracy. Businesses - both large and small – also use the information from the Economic Census to decide where to locate a factory, store or office as well as to develop marketing and sales strategies and evaluate expansion opportunities. Statistics from the Economic Census provide the foundation for start-up businesses developing business plans, and help us measure the effect fringe benefits (such as health insurance, pension plans) have on how American companies do business.

Details of the Economic Census

One of the most useful tables from the Economic Census is the Economy-Wide Key Statistics file. This table presents statistics on number of establishments, employment, payroll, and sales (or other measure of output) for employer establishments in every available industry and geographic area published in the Economic Census. This table also covers data published in the Economic Census of Island Areas, as well as data on number of establishments and revenue for businesses with no paid employees from the Nonemployers Statistics program.

The Economic Census presents statistics for the Nation, States, metropolitan areas, counties, economic places, and ZIP Codes, with coverage that varies from sector to sector. Economic places not only include incorporated places but also Census Designated Places (CDPs).The greatest variety of statistics and the most detailed classifications usually are published at the national level. There are fewer statistics and less detailed classifications for States, and fewer still for smaller areas, to avoid disclosing information about individual firms.

In addition, industry statistics are also published in the Economic Census. For the Manufacturing and Mining sectors, products are published using codes that are consistent with NAICS, where the first 6 digits of the 10-digit product code mirror the NAICS code for the industry with which the product is most often associated. Broad and detailed product or service lines also are provided for retail and wholesale trade and other service industries.

North American Industry Classification System - Your Guide to Industries

The Economic Census publishes data primarily on the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) basis. Since NAICS changes every 5 years, users should review the impact of the changes before making year-to-year comparisons. Adopted in 1997 to replace the old Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system, it is the industry classification system used by most statistical agencies of the United States.

NAICS codes are used for industry classification at the 2-, 3-, 4-, 5-, and 6- digit levels of detail. Sectors, the broadest classifications, are 2-digit codes, while individual U.S. industries are represented at the 6-digit code level.