The economic census has been taken as an integrated program at 5-year intervals since 1967 and before that for 1954, 1958 and 1963. Prior to that time, individual components of the economic census were taken separately at varying intervals.
The economic census traces its beginnings to the 1810 Decennial Census, when questions on manufacturing were included with those for population. Coverage of economic activities was expanded for the 1840 Decennial Census and subsequent censuses to include mining and some commercial activities. The 1905 Manufactures Census was the first time an economic census was taken apart from the regular decennial population census. Censuses covering retail and wholesale trade and construction industries were added in 1930, as were some covering service trades in 1933. Censuses of construction, manufacturing and the other censuses of businesses were suspended during World War II.
The 1954 economic censuses were the first economic censuses to be fully integrated: providing comparable census data across economic sectors, using consistent time periods, concepts, definitions, classifications and reporting units. It was the first census to be taken by mail, using lists of firms provided by the administrative records of other federal agencies. Since 1963, administrative records also have been used to provide basic statistics for very small firms, reducing or eliminating the need to send them economic census questionnaires.
The range of industries covered in the economic censuses expanded substantially between 1967 and 1992. The census of construction industries began on a regular basis in 1967, and the scope of service industries, introduced in 1933, was broadened in 1967, 1977 and 1987. While a few transportation industries were covered as early as 1963, it was not until 1992 that the economic census broadened its coverage to include all of transportation, communications and utilities, as well as financial, insurance, and real estate industries.
In 2002, economic census coverage added landscape architecture, landscaping services, veterinary services and pet care services, industries previously classified as agricultural services. With these additions, the economic census and the separate census of governments collectively cover roughly 96 percent of all economic activity.
There is also a census of agriculture, which has been collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service since 1997. Agriculture contributes about 2 percent of all U.S. economic activity.
See what’s new for the 2007 Economic Census.
See the Historical Data section.