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Data from the Annual Wholesale Trade Survey


To provide detailed industry measures of sales and inventories for wholesale trade activities. The United States Code, Title 13, authorizes this survey and provides for mandatory responses.


Companies with employment that are primarily engaged in wholesale trade in the U.S. These include wholesalers that take title of the goods they sell such as jobbers, industrial distributors, exporters, importers, and manufacturer sales branches and offices(MSBO's). In 2007, we will also provide information on companies that do not take title of the goods they sell such as agents, merchandise or commodity brokers, commission merchants; and electronic business to business markets.


Merchant wholesalers, excluding MSBO's provide data on dollar value of annual sales, end-of-year inventories and methods of inventory valuation, purchases, and gross margins. MSBO's provide data on annual sales, end-of-year inventories, inventory valuation, and operating expenses. In 2007 Agents, Brokers, and electronic markets will also be available which will provide information on annual sales, commissions earned, the gross selling value of sales conducted for others, and opeating expenses.


Data for merchant wholesalers, excluding MSBO's has been collected annually since 1978; Data collection for MSBO's was begun in 2003 and included data for 2002 and 2003; data collection for agents, brokers, and electronic markets will begin in 2006 and will cover data for 2004 and 2005. Data collected are for activity taking place throughout the calendar year. New samples are chosen approximately every 5 years and are updated quarterly. Use of the latest sample began in the 1999 survey year.


A mail-out/mail-back survey of about 8,000 wholesale businesses. The sample is drawn from the Business Register, which contains all Employer Identification Numbers (EINs) and listed establishment locations.

Firms are first stratified by major kind of business and estimated sales. All firms with sales above applicable size cutoffs are selected into the survey and report for all their wholesale industry EINs. In a second stage, unselected EINs are stratified by major kinds of business and sales, and randomly selected from each strata.

The sample is updated quarterly to reflect employer business "births" and "deaths"; adding new employer businesses identified in the Business and Professional Classification Survey and deleting firms and EINs when it is determined they are no longer active. There is about a 9 month delay before new firms can be represented in the sample. To account for births during this interim period, data are imputed for all EINs that go out of business but are still active on the IRS mailing list.


The Annual Benchmark Report for Wholesale Trade is released annually each spring and covers merchant wholesalers excluding MSBO's. This report contains estimated annual sales, monthly and year-end inventories, inventory/sales ratios, purchases, gross margins, and gross margin/sales ratios by kind of business. Annual estimates are benchmarked to the most recent census of wholesale trade. Monthly sales and inventories estimates are then benchmarked to the annual estimates. Monthly estimates, both seasonally adjusted and unadjusted, are also presented.

The Annual Report for Wholesale Trade is also released in the spring and covers all merchant wholesalers. It will also cover agents, brokers, and electronic markets in 2007.


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. The Census Bureau uses the data to benchmark results from the monthly wholesale trade survey.

Individual businesses use the estimates to gauge their sales to the overall industry. National associations use the estimates as a leading indicator in forecasting future demand. They also use the annual estimates to benchmark their own sampling operations.


Provides the only source of current purchases and gross margin data for merchant wholesalers.


o Monthly Wholesale Trade Survey

o Quarterly Financial Report

o Business and Professional Classification Report

o Census of Wholesale Trade

EXPLORE INFORMATION                            

o  Wholesale                                o Next Program
o U.S. Economy o Economy Overview

Source: U.S. Census Bureau
        Service Sector Statistics Division
        Last Revised: April 29, 2005