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Guide to the
2002 Economic Census


A much more detailed examination of census methodology as employed in the 1997 Economic Census is presented in the History of the Economic Census.


For most sectors, large- and medium-size firms, plus all firms known to operate more than one establishment, are sent questionnaires to be completed and returned to the Census Bureau by mail. For most very small firms, data from existing administrative records of other Federal agencies are used instead. These records provide basic information on location, kind of business, sales, payroll, number of employees, and legal form of organization.

Firms in the 2002 Economic Census are divided into the mail universe and nonmail universe. The coverage of and the method of obtaining census information from each are described below:


The classifications for all establishments are based on the North American Industry Classification System United States, 2002 (NAICS) manual. The 2002 edition of this manual represents a relatively minor revision of the 1997 NAICS, when compared to the very substantial change between 1997 NAICS and the 1987 Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system. Appendix A of the 2002 NAICS manual notes the comparability between the 1997 NAICS and 2002 NAICS classification systems.

The method of assigning classifications and the level of detail at which establishments are classified differs between the mail and nonmail universe, as follows:

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