For Information Call:                                           For Release January 1998

Robert Marske

(301) 457-2547

1997 Economic Census--Business Leaders Agree It's "Indispensable"

Millions of businesses are now returning their 1997 Economic Census forms to the U.S. Census Bureau. Every 5 years, the Economic Census identifies National and local business trends needed to measure and encourage economic growth.

More than 5 million businesses received 1997 Economic Census forms in December. The forms are due to be returned by February 12, 1998. Businesses that received a form are required to respond.

"Sound and timely economic data are the fuel that powers economic decision making. Without it, policy makers in both the public and private sector would be flying blind," said Thomas J. Donohue, President, U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "The census data is not only important in its own right, but it is also pivotal to the proper interpretation of a whole host of other statistics."

"The Economic Census is indispensable to understanding America's economy," said Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. "It insures the accuracy of the statistics we rely on for sound economic policy and for successful business planning." Census figures help update such widely used figures as the gross domestic product (GDP) and monthly retail sales.

This is the most ambitious Economic Census ever. It will be the first published entirely on the Internet. Early in 1999, a new "advance" report will present totals for the whole economy. All data also will appear on CD-ROMs, and highlights will be published in several printed reports.

This also will be the first major statistical report based on the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). Developed cooperatively by the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, NAICS replaces the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system to provide greater comparability with international statistics.

"This is going to provide exciting new information for us," said C. Mark Dadd, Chief Economist of AT&T. NAICS reflects the profound changes in technology and the growth of services that have marked recent decades.

Economic Census results provide vital information for strategic planning, and many of the official statistics that investors expect in a business plan.

"Businesses can use these data to find out what's happening in their own markets," said William Dunkelberg, Chief Economist of the National Federation of Independent Business. "That will make our small businesses much more effective in serving consumers and growing and creating jobs."

State and local governments, chambers of commerce, and others concerned with economic development also rely on Economic Census data. "We need to understand our business climate and how it has changed over time before we can effectively work toward new business growth," added J. R. Wilhite, President, Kentucky Industrial Development Foundation.

Information collected in the Economic Census includes the number of employees, payroll, and the types and value of goods and services provided during 1997. Most businesses can complete their form in about an hour. In fact, many very small businesses will not even get a form.

To simplify reporting, each Economic Census form is tailored to a business's primary activities. There are over 500 versions of the basic form.

The census is absolutely confidential. By law, only sworn Census Bureau employees may see individual responses. Business responses are exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, and no business competitors can obtain the data.

Business people can use the Internet--www.census.gov/econ97--to get more information, to preview sample census forms online, and to review key results from the most recent Economic Census.

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Editor: Want more quotes? Check www.census.gov/epcd/www/quotes.html