Firms in the economic census and related programs are divided into those sent report forms and those not sent report forms. For most economic census sectors and programs, all large- and medium-size firms and all multi-establishment firms were sent report forms to be completed for each of their establishments and returned to the Census Bureau.
For most sectors and programs, report forms were also mailed to a sample of small employers. These include single-establishment firms with payroll below a specified cutoff. This cutoff varies by economic census sector, industry and geography. However, for most very small firms, data from existing administrative records of other federal agencies are used. These records provide basic information for the business, including data on sales, payroll, number of employees, legal form of organization and other statistics.
All data for firms with no paid employees during the year (also known as "nonemployers") were obtained from administrative records of other federal agencies. Data for nonemployers are not included in the reports from the economic census but are released in the annual Nonemployer Statistics series.