U.S. Department of Commerce

North American Industry Classification System

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

  1. What is NAICS and how is it used?
  2. What is an establishment?
  3. What are "statistical purposes?"
  4. What is a "primary business activity?"
  5. What is the NAICS structure and how many digits are in a NAICS code?
  6. I have seen NAICS codes with more than 6 digits. What are these, and how can I get a list of them?
  7. Where can I get a complete list of 2012 NAICS codes?
  8. What is the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system? Is it still being used?
  9. How can I determine the correct NAICS code for my business?
  10. Who assigns NAICS codes to businesses and how?
  11. How can I have my company's NAICS code changed?
  12. How can I get a new NAICS code created for my type of business?
  13. Can I get a NAICS code or other statistical data for a specific company?
  14. How does NAICS 2012 differ from NAICS 2007?
  15. Do NAICS codes change over time?
  16. Can a business have more than one NAICS code?
  17. How do the NAICS codes affect federal procurement and regulatory activities, such as those carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Department of Defense, and the General Services Administration?
  18. What is the relationship between NAICS and the Small Business Administration's (SBA) size standards?
  19. How can I find an occupational NAICS code?
  20. How can I find data (payroll, establishment, sales receipts, etc.) for a specific NAICS industry?
  21. Will U.S. international trade data be available on a NAICS basis?
  22. How does NAICS handle market-based rather than production-based statistical classifications?
  23. What is Title 13?
  24. How can I purchase a copy of the NAICS manual?
  25. How do NAICS codes relate to other classification systems?
  26. My company is overseas. What is my NAICS code?
  27. If my question isn't here or I still need more information, what should I do?

1. What is NAICS and how is it used?

The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS, pronounced Nakes) was developed under the direction and guidance of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as the standard for use by Federal statistical agencies in classifying business establishments for the collection, tabulation, presentation, and analysis of statistical data describing the U.S. economy. Use of the standard provides uniformity and comparability in the presentation of these statistical data. NAICS is based on a production-oriented concept, meaning that it groups establishments into industries according to similarity in the processes used to produce goods or services. NAICS replaced the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system in 1997.

NAICS was initially developed and subsequently revised by Mexico's INEGI, Statistics Canada, and the U.S. Economic Classification Policy Committee (the latter acting on behalf of OMB). The goal of this collaboration was to produce common industry definitions for Canada, Mexico, and the United States. These common definitions facilitate economic analyses of the economies of the three North American countries. The statistical agencies in the three countries produce information on inputs and outputs, industrial performance, productivity, unit labor costs, and employment. NAICS, which is based on a production-oriented concept, ensures maximum usefulness of industrial statistics for these and similar purposes.

NAICS in the United States was designed for statistical purposes. However, NAICS is frequently used for various administrative, regulatory, contracting, taxation, and other non-statistical purposes. For example, some state governments offer tax incentives to businesses classified in specified NAICS industries. Some contracting authorities require businesses to register their NAICS codes, which are used to determine eligibility to bid on certain contracts. The requirements for these non-statistical purposes played no role in the initial development of NAICS or its later revisions.

Various agencies and organizations have also begun using NAICS as a basis for their procurement programs, requiring that a NAICS code be provided for each good or service to be procured. NAICS is an industry classification system, not a product classification system, and therefore neither intended nor well suited for this purpose. The North American Product Classification System (NAPCS) is currently under development under the direction and guidance of OMB and also in collaboration with Canada and Mexico. This system is intended to incorporate all of the outputs/ products of the industries defined in NAICS, with "product" referring to goods produced and services provided. For statistical purposes, a business establishment is assigned one NAICS code, based on its primary business activity. Once NAPCS is complete, multiple NAPCS codes could be linked to any one establishment to indicate its various products.

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2. What is an establishment?

An establishment is generally a single physical location where business is conducted or where services or industrial operations are performed (e.g., factory, mill, store, hotel, movie theater, mine, farm, airline terminal, sales office, warehouse, or central administrative office). An enterprise, on the other hand, may consist of more than one location performing the same or different types of economic activities. Each establishment of that enterprise is assigned a NAICS code based on its own primary business activity.

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3. What are "statistical purposes?"

The U.S. Census Bureau and other Federal statistical agencies collect, tabulate, present, and analyze data about the economy of the United States. For an example, please visit the Business and Industry website.

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4. What is a "primary business activity?"

Ideally, the primary business activity of an establishment is determined by relative share of production costs and/or capital investment. In practice, other variables, such as revenue, value of shipments, or employment, are used as proxies. The Census Bureau generally uses revenue or value of shipments to determine an establishment's primary business activity.

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5. What is the NAICS structure and how many digits are in a NAICS code?

NAICS is a 2- through 6-digit hierarchical classification system, offering five levels of detail. Each digit in the code is part of a series of progressively narrower categories, and the more digits in the code signify greater classification detail. The first two digits designate the economic sector, the third digit designates the subsector, the fourth digit designates the industry group, the fifth digit designates the NAICS industry, and the sixth digit designates the national industry. The 5-digit NAICS code is the level at which there is comparability in code and definitions for most of the NAICS sectors across the three countries participating in NAICS (the United States, Canada, and Mexico). The 6-digit level allows for the United States, Canada, and Mexico each to have country-specific detail. A complete and valid NAICS code contains six digits.

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6. I have seen NAICS codes with more than 6 digits. What are these, and how can I get a list of them?

Within the official NAICS classification system, U.S. industries are defined at the 6-digit level. Any codes greater than 6 digits that are labeled as "NAICS codes" are not truly NAICS codes, but perhaps should be labeled "NAICS-based codes". Any such codes would probably be proprietary to the agency or organization that created them for their own programmatic purposes, and should not be assumed to be consistent or comparable across agencies.

For use in its economic census and survey programs, the U.S. Census Bureau has developed several NAICS-based coding systems. One is the Numerical List of Manufactured and Mineral Products, which is a 10-digit product classification system containing products produced by the manufacturing and mining industries. The first 6 digits of the 10-digit product code is the 6-digit NAICS code of the manufacturing or mining industry that is designated as the primary producer of the product. View the 2002 Numerical List, 2007 Numerical List, or the 2012 Numerical List.

Another example of NAICS-based codes used in the Economic Census, which appear on the reporting forms and in publications, are the 7- and 8-digit "kind of business codes". These codes are used for certain industries to provide finer details of the principle business activities below the 6-digit NAICS industry level.

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7. Where can I get a complete list of 2012 NAICS codes?

To view a complete list of 2012 NAICS Sector codes and titles, visit the "Downloads/Reference Files/Tools" section of this website. Under "2012 NAICS," you can download an Excel file either the complete NAICS code hierarchy, ranging from broad 2-digit Sector codes to specific 6-digit U.S. Industry codes, or a list of just the 6-digit U.S. Industry codes.

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8. What is the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system? Is it still being used?

NAICS replaced the SIC in 1997. Now the Federal statistical agencies use NAICS for the collection, tabulation, presentation, and analysis of economic statistics. There will be no further revisions of the SIC, which was last updated in 1987. It is possible that other organizations and state and local agencies are continuing to use the SIC for their own purposes, but these non-statistical uses are outside the scope of the Federal economic statistical programs.

To find the SIC codes and their descriptions, visit the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) website, which maintains a SIC Manual.

To learn more about the differences between the original 1997 NAICS and the SIC, visit the "History" link on this website.

A detailed conversion (concordance) between the SIC and 2002 NAICS is available in Excel format for download at the "Concordances" link on this website. There are no plans to develop a concordance between the SIC and 2012 NAICS.

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9. How can I determine the correct NAICS code for my business?

  1. You can use the search feature at www.census.gov/naics. In the "2012 NAICS Search" box on the left side of that page, enter a keyword that describes your kind of business. A list of primary business activities containing that keyword and the corresponding NAICS codes will appear. Choose the one that most closely corresponds to your primary business activity, or refine your search to obtain other choices.
  2. Rather than searching through a list of primary business activities, you may also view the complete 2012 NAICS structure with codes and titles by clicking on "2012 NAICS" on the left-hand column from the NAICS main webpage. Then click on the 2-digit Sector code to see all the NAICS codes under that Sector. Then choose the 6-digit code of your interest to see the corresponding definition, as well as cross-references and index items, when available.
  3. If you know your old SIC code, you can also find the appropriate 2002 NAICS code by using the detailed conversion (concordance) between the 1987 SIC and 2002 NAICS available in Excel format for download at the "Concordances" link on this website.

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10. Who assigns NAICS codes to businesses and how?

There is no central government agency with the role of assigning, monitoring, or approving NAICS codes for establishments. Individual establishments are assigned NAICS codes by various agencies for various purposes using a variety of methods. The U.S. Census Bureau has no formal role as an arbitrator of NAICS classification.

The U.S. Census Bureau assigns one NAICS code to each establishment based on its primary activity (generally the activity that generates the most revenue for the establishment) to collect, tabulate, analyze, and disseminate statistical data describing the economy of the United States. Generally, the U.S. Census Bureau's NAICS classification codes are derived from information that the business establishment provided on surveys, census forms, or administrative records.

Various other government agencies, trade associations, and regulation boards adopted the NAICS classification system to assign codes to their own lists of establishments for their own programmatic needs. If you question the NAICS code contained on a form received from an agency other than the U.S. Census Bureau, you should contact that agency directly.

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11. How can I have my company's NAICS code changed?

There is no "official" way to have a company's NAICS code changed and there is no central register that represents the "official" NAICS classification for business establishments. Various Federal government agencies maintain their own directories of business establishments, and assign classification codes based on their own needs. Generally, the classification codes are derived from information that the business establishment has provided on surveys, forms, or administrative records. For this reason, we recommend that you contact the agency that has assigned the code that you believe should be changed. For example, if you question the NAICS code contained on a form received from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), you should contact the Department of Labor. For access to a list of Federal government agencies' websites, visit www.usa.gov/Agencies/Federal/All_Agencies/index.shtml This link to a non-federal Web site does not imply endorsement of any particular product, company, or content..

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12. How can I get a new NAICS code created for my type of business?

NAICS is scheduled to be reviewed every 5 years for potential revisions, so that the classification system can keep pace with the changing economy. This is the only time that new NAICS codes can be considered. See the NAICS Update Process Fact Sheet [PDF 37KB] for more information.

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13. Can I get a NAICS code or other statistical data for a specific company?

Title 13, U.S. Code, Section 9 (a) prohibits the U.S. Census Bureau from releasing information on a specific business including NAICS and SIC codes. Visit our Data Protection and Privacy Policy Website to obtain more information on Title 13. There are a number of private research firms that provide SIC or NAICS codes and data for specific companies, often for a fee. The U.S. Census Bureau cannot verify the accuracy of the codes or data provided by these companies.

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14. How does NAICS 2012 differ from NAICS 2007?

There were 1,175 industries in 2007 NAICS United States and in 2012 NAICS United States there are 1,065 industries. For 2012, revisions were made to address changes in the economy. These included content revisions for selected areas, several title changes, and clarification of a few industry definitions. Specifically, the changes include: (1) collapsing detail in the Manufacturing sector to reduce statistical product production costs and respondent burden; (2) adding new and emerging industries; (3) the classification of distribution centers, publishers' sales offices, and logistics service providers; (4) the classification of units that outsource all transformation activities.

Noticeable changes were made to six of the twenty NAICS sectors during the 2012 revision of NAICS. These sectors are listed below:

  1. Sector 22, Utilities - 2007 NAICS code 221119, Other Electric Power Generation, was deleted and portions of it were reclassified, resulting in the addition of five new 6-digit industries: 221114, Solar Electric Power Generation; 221115, Wind Electric Power Generation; 221116, Geothermal Electric Power Generation; 221117, Biomass Electric Power Generation; 221118, Other Electric Power Generation.
  2. Sector 23, Construction - Building fireproofing contractors and fireproofing flooring construction contractors were moved to 238310, Drywall and Insulation Contractors.
  3. Sector 31-33, Manufacturing - Major changes were made in the Manufacturing sector, with the collapsing of detail. Digital camera manufacturing was moved to newly created industry, 333316, Photographic and Photocopying Equipment Manufacturing.
  4. Sector 42, Wholesale Trade - Electric water heaters was moved to 423720, Plumbing and Heating Equipment and Supplies (Hydronics) Merchant Wholesalers. Gas household appliances (except gas water heaters) was moved to newly titled 423620, Household Appliances, Electric Housewares, and Consumer Electronics Merchant Wholesalers.
  5. Sector 44-45, Retail Trade - 2007 NAICS codes 441221, Motorcycle, ATV, and Personal Watercraft Dealers, and 441229, All Other Motor Vehicle Dealers, were collapsed into a new 6-digit industry, 441228, Motorcycle, ATV, and All Other Motor Vehicle Dealers. 2007 NAICS codes 454311, Heating Oil Dealers; 454312, Liquefied Petroleum Gas (Bottled Gas) Dealers; 454319, Other Fuel Dealers, were collapsed into a new 6-digit industry, 454310, Fuel Dealers. Subsector 443, Electronics and Appliance Stores, was restructured.
  6. Sector 72, Accommodation and Food Services - Industries in Subsector 722, Food Services and Drinking Places, were restructured, resulting in new Industry Group 7225, Restaurants and Other Eating Places.

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15. Do NAICS codes change over time?

NAICS is scheduled to be reviewed every 5 years for potential revisions, so that the classification system can keep pace with the changing economy. See the NAICS Update Process Fact Sheet [PDF 37KB] for more information.

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16. Can a business have more than one NAICS code?

In the process of collecting, tabulating, presenting, and analyzing statistical data, the U.S. Census Bureau assigns and maintains only one NAICS code for each establishment based on its primary activity (generally the activity that generates the most revenue for the establishment). Since other agencies and organizations have adopted NAICS for use in programs that are not statistical (e.g., regulatory activities and procurement), it is possible that they allow for more than one NAICS code per establishment. For instance, the Central Contractors Registration (CCR), where businesses register to become federal contractors, will accept up to 5 or 10 classification codes per establishment. You will need to contact these other agencies to find out what their policies are, and what NAICS codes are appropriate for your business relative to their programs. For access to a list of Federal government agencies, visit: www.usa.gov/Agencies/Federal/All_Agencies/index.shtml This link to a non-federal Web site does not imply endorsement of any particular product, company, or content..

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17. How do the NAICS codes affect federal procurement and regulatory activities, such as those carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Department of Defense, and the General Services Administration?

NAICS was developed for use in the collection, tabulation, presentation, and analysis of statistical data that show the economic status of the United States. The NAICS categories and definitions were not developed to meet the needs of procurement or regulatory applications. However, other Federal agencies, trade associations, and regulation boards have adopted NAICS to use for procurement and regulatory purposes even though it is not well suited to meet their specific needs. The U.S. Census Bureau has no formal role as an arbitrator of classification decisions outside of Census Bureau programs. For questions regarding other agencies' uses of the NAICS system, contact the specific agency. For access to a list of Federal government agencies, visit www.usa.gov/Agencies/Federal/All_Agencies/index.shtml This link to a non-federal Web site does not imply endorsement of any particular product, company, or content..

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18. What is the relationship between NAICS and the Small Business Administration's (SBA) size standards?

NAICS categories do not distinguish between small and large business, or between for-profit and non-profit. The Small Business Administration (SBA) developed size standards for each NAICS category. To find more information about the SBA size standards, visit the SBA website; http://www.sba.gov/content/small-business-size-standards This link to a non-federal Web site does not imply endorsement of any particular product, company, or content.. You may also contact SBA's Office of Size Standards on 202-205-6618 or via email at sizestandards@sba.gov. To learn more about the size statistics the Census Bureau collects, visit the Census Bureau's Statistics about Business Size.

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19. How can I find an occupational NAICS code?

The NAICS system is used to classify establishments according to their primary industrial activity. It is not a system for classifying occupations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics maintains the Standard Occupational Classification (SOC) system. For information on that system, go to www.bls.gov/soc/home.htm.

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20. How can I find data (payroll, establishment, sales receipts, etc.) for a specific NAICS industry?

There are numerous economic statistical programs at the Census Bureau that publish data on a NAICS basis, at varying levels of detail. Links to these data sets are at www.census.gov/econ/www/index.html.

You may also obtain data from the American Fact Finder website, factfinder2.census.gov. In this site, look under the Economic Census tab at the bottom of the page. You can obtain a quick report by either industry or geography by clicking on the links listed. Beginning with the 1998 data year, the annual County Business Patterns reports provide employment, payroll, and number of establishments (but not sales/receipts). The CBP data can be found at www.census.gov/econ/cbp/index.html.

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21. Will U.S. international trade data be available on a NAICS basis?

Data on international trade in goods are collected on a commodity basis, whereas NAICS data are on an establishment basis. Commodity groups approximating the NAICS categories were developed, however, and published for the years 1997 through 1999. (These overlap with series for groups using SIC commodity group classifications in the year 1997.) It should be noted that some of the kinds of distinctions made in NAICS and other industry classifications cannot be made in commodity trade data. A notable example is printing and publishing. NAICS places publishing in the Information sector and retains only printing in Manufacturing. In commodity trade data, however, the entire value of imported and exported publications is included in the goods classification "Printing, publishing and similar products." For additional information, please visit the Foreign Trade Statistics website at www.census.gov/foreign-trade/www/.

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22. How does NAICS handle market-based rather than production-based statistical classifications?

A new North American Product Classification System (NAPCS) is under development, as a complementary system to NAICS. Whereas NAICS focuses on the input and production processes of industries, NAPCS will classify all the outputs of the industries defined in NAICS.

The long-term objective of NAPCS is to develop a market-oriented, or demand-based, classification system for products that (a) is not industry-of-origin based but can be linked to the NAICS industry structure, (b) is consistent across the three NAICS countries, and (c) promotes improvements in the identification and classification of service products across international classification systems, such as the Central Product Classification System of the United Nations. For more information visit the NAPCS website.

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23. What is Title 13?

Title 13, U.S. Code, Section 9 (a) prohibits the U.S. Census Bureau from disclosing individual company activities including NAICS and SIC codes. More information on Title 13 can be found at www.census.gov/main/www/policies.html#confidential.

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24. How can I purchase a copy of the NAICS manual?

The 2012 NAICS manual is available through National Technical Information Service (NTIS). You may purchase a hardcover or softcover printed version or a CD-ROM version. To obtain more information about purchasing the NAICS manuals or CD-ROM, visit the NTIS website www.ntis.gov/products/naics.aspx This link to a non-federal Web site does not imply endorsement of any particular product, company, or content..

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25. How do NAICS codes relate to other classification systems?

NAICS has been correlated to the International Standard Industrial Classification (ISIC) from the United Nations and to the General Industrial Classification of Economic Activities with the European Communities (NACE). To see or download these correlations, visit the "Concordances" link on this website.

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26. My company is overseas. What is my NAICS code?

NAICS was developed to classify business establishments within the United States, Canada, and Mexico for statistical purposes. If a company has both domestic and foreign locations, only the domestic locations would be assigned NAICS codes for statistical purposes.

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27. If my question isn't here or I still need more information, what should I do?

If your question isn't listed here, send an email to naics@census.gov. Please include your telephone number in your email message in case we need to call you for more information.

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) | (888) 756-2427 | naics@census.gov | Last Revised: October 24, 2013