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Questions & Answers about the Economic Census

What is the economic census?
Will my firm be included? Can my firm be excused from the census?
By what authority is my firm required to respond?
Will my responses be kept confidential?
What is the penalty for not responding?
What operational units of my company are covered?
What period is covered?
What will the 1997 Economic Census package include?
What questions will be asked on the census forms?
How will the 1997 forms differ from the ones my firm completed for 1992?
Can I use estimates?
How can I get an advance look at the forms my company is to receive?
Can my firm report electronically?

What is the Economic Census?
The economic census gathers detailed information about the nation's economy once every five years. The Census Bureau will mail the 1997 Economic Census questionnaires to over 4 million companies in December, 1997. We will combine the information each business supplies with that supplied by other firms, and publish summary reports on industries and geographic areas from the national to the local level.

There are nearly 500 versions of the census form, each tailored to particular industries or types of activity. The content of the forms was developed in consultation with representative trade associations and other data users; data suppliers; accounting organizations; the Business Council on the Reduction of Paperwork; and the Office of Management and Budget.

Will my firm be included?
Virtually all but the smallest firms will receive census forms. Those receiving forms are required by law to complete and return them.

By what authority is my firm required to respond?
Title 13, United States Code, requires firms to complete census questionnaires sent to them.
Will my responses be kept confidential?
Title 13 directs the Census Bureau to publish no data that could reveal the identity or activities of an individual firm. We use the questionnaires solely for developing summary statistics, and cannot be used by any other government or private agency for any purpose. The law also protects from disclosure any photocopies of the census questionnaires that you retain in your records.

What is the penalty for not responding?
The penalty for not responding is $500, assessed on a per establishment basis. Payment of the penalty does not excuse a company from reporting.

What operational units of my company are covered?
The Census measures activity at the "establishment" level -- generally, a single physical location. The establishment definition varies among industry groups because of differences in structure or standard practices. Each form contains a detailed definition of this and other concepts.

What period is covered?
Each form requests data for calendar year 1997. Your fiscal year is acceptable if it includes both March and October of 1997, but employment and payroll still should relate to the calendar year.

What will the 1997 Economic Census package include?
For companies with more than one establishment, the census package includes
1) an inventory list of all establishments of the company and its subsidiaries; and
2) a separate questionnaire for each establishment of the company.

What questions will be asked on the census forms?
Key questions cover employment, payroll, certain other expenses, and measures of output, e.g., sales, receipts, or value of shipments. This
chart lists major data items asked of firms in manufacturing and construction; in wholesale trade; and in all other industries.
How will the 1997 forms differ from the ones my firm completed for 1992?
The questionnaires for the various sectors have been made more similar.
Many census forms have been shortened and ask fewer questions.
The company summary questionnaire has been dropped.
Questions on some forms have been made more detailed to accommodate classification according to the new (
North American Industrial Classification System).
Can I use estimates?
Estimates are acceptable where the information requested is not readily available from business records.

How can I get an advance look at the forms my company is to receive?
Sample forms may be examined now, and the rest of the forms will become available over the next several months. There are over 500 variants of the census form, but most companies receive only a few different kinds of forms in the Economic Census -- even large companies with many hundreds of locations. For example, in the 1992 Economic Census, the average company received fewer than 6 different kinds of forms! You still will be required to complete a form for each location of your company, but you'll work with just a handful of forms, not all 500 printed for the entire census. If you already know the form titles your company will receive (the list was included in the package along with this booklet) simply type the form numbers in the space provided on the Internet form Otherwise, browse the handy index to find the forms for your industry.
System Requirements:
Sample forms are stored in PDF format. You need an Internet browser to retrieve the files, and PDF reader software (available for free downloading from the Internet) to view the files. Once files are downloaded to the reader you can view them on screen, or print them on a local printer.
When Will the Forms be Mailed? When Are They Due?
You will receive questionnaires in December, 1997. Completed reports are due February 12, 1998.

Can my firm report electronically?
If your firm has a very large number of establishments,
electronic reporting could reduce your cost to complete the economic census. Diskette-based questionnaires are being developed for businesses in retail trade, food services, and accommodations. Other kinds of business can report electronically using conventions developed for EDI (Electronic Data Interchange). If you are interested in reporting on electronic media--regardless of your industry-- please contact:

Electronic Reporting Staff
Bureau of the Census
Washington, DC 20233-6100
Telephone: 301-457-4125
email: ers@census.gov

Comments? econ@census.gov Revised: 12/22/97
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