U.S. Department of Commerce

Monthly Wholesale Trade Survey

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PURPOSE

To track month-to-month trends for sales and inventories of U.S. distributors, jobbers, drop shippers, and import/export merchants, excluding manufacturers' sales branches or offices (MSBOs). Title 13 of the United States Code authorizes the Census Bureau to conduct this survey and provides for voluntary responses.

COVERAGE

Companies with employment that are primarily engaged in merchant wholesale trade in the U.S, as defined by the 2007 NAICS, excluding MSBOs. Also excluded are non-merchant wholesalers such as agents, brokers, and electronic markets.

CONTENT

Companies provide data on dollar values of sales and end-of-month inventories.

FREQUENCY

Monthly since 1946. New samples are drawn approximately every 5 years and are updated quarterly. Use of the latest sample began in Fall 2006.

METHODS

Data are collected by mail, fax and telephone. Response is voluntary. Questionnaires are mailed each month and request data for the month just ending.

The survey uses a stratified, one-stage design with primary strata defined by industry (e.g., Motor Vehicle and Motor Vehicle Parts, Furniture and Home Furnishings, Grocery, etc.). There are 40 primary strata. The primary strata are substratified into 4, 7, 10, or 13 annual sales size strata. The largest sales size stratum within each industry stratum consists of companies, all of which are selected with certainty (sampling weight equal to one).

The other strata are populated by EINs. Sample sizes are computed to meet multiple coefficient of variation constraints on estimated annual sales and end-of-year inventory totals. Constraints are specified at detailed industry levels and at broad industry levels up to the total wholesale level. Sampling weights range from 1 to 500. Units are selected independently between strata using simple random sampling without replacement within the size substrata. The current sample of 4,400 businesses consists of approximately 1,700 companies and 2,700 EINs. Updates to the sample are made on a quarterly basis to account for new businesses, deaths, and other changes to the universe.

PRODUCTS

Monthly Wholesale Trade Sales and Inventories reports are released 6 weeks after the close of the data month, containing preliminary current month estimates and final data for the previous month. Statistics include: sales, inventories, and inventory/sales ratios along with standard errors. Estimates are both seasonally adjusted and unadjusted.

An annual benchmark report is released each spring. This report presents the results of the benchmarking operation that revises monthly sales and inventories estimates based on the Annual Wholesale Trade Survey. Estimates are both seasonally adjusted and unadjusted.

USES

The Bureau of Economic Analysis uses the estimates as an input to estimate sales and inventories for the Gross Domestic Product.

The Council of Economic Advisers uses the estimates for assessing near term economic activity.

The Department of the Treasury uses the estimates to research economic trends.

Business and industry groups use the estimates to forecast future demand.

Researchers use the estimates to benchmark the results from their own sampling operations.

Manufacturers can use inventory estimates as a proxy for the distributors confidence for future expected sales.

SPECIAL FEATURES

Provides a designated principal economic indicator and the only source of current data on wholesale trade.

RELATED PROGRAMS

Economic Census

Annual Wholesale Trade Survey

Quarterly Financial Report

Business and Professional Classification Survey


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