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Industry and Occupation

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Industry data describe the kind of business conducted by a person's employing organization. These data are derived from a combination of write-in and check box questions which are clerically coded by Census Bureau staff. These written responses to the industry questions are coded using the industry classification system developed for Census 2000 and modified in 2002 and again in 2007. This system consists of 269 categories for employed people, including military, classified into 20 sectors.

The primary sources of household industry data are currently the American Community Survey (ACS) and the Puerto Rico Community Survey (PRCS), which collect the detailed data previously covered by the decennial census long forms. The ACS has collected industry data since the first survey in 1996. For the Island Areas—the United States Virgin Islands (USVI), the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Guam, and American Samoa—the census long form is still the main data source.

Industry data are separately collected from business establishments by the Census Bureau through the Economic Programs Directorate.

Why We Collect these Data

Industry data describe the work activity and occupational experience of the American labor force. Data are used to formulate policy and programs for employment, career development and training, and to measure compliance with antidiscrimination policies. Mandated reports for Congress on the labor force rely on the analysis of these characteristics. Further, the Bureau of Economic Analysis uses this information, in conjunction with other data, to develop its state per capita income estimates used in the allocation formulas or for eligibility criteria in many federal programs such as Medicaid, and plans to use the county-level information to develop its county and state per capita income estimates.

Information about industry is also important for creating jobs as companies use these data to decide where to locate new plants, stores, or offices. Agencies use these data to plan job training programs. Federal agencies use these data in litigation where employment discrimination is alleged. Locally, data are used to estimate the demand for staff in healthcare occupations and their geographic distribution based on these data.

How We Collect these Data

On the ACS, demographic industry data are derived primarily from answers to questions 42 through 44. These questions are asked of all people 15 years old and over who had worked in the past 5 years. The text of these questions as they appear in the 2010 ACS questionnaire is as follows:

Question 42 For whom did this person work?
If now on active duty in the Armed Forces, mark (X) this box and print the branch of the Armed Forces. (Box located to right of text)
Name of company, business, or other employer
Fill-in-the-blank field

Question 43 - What kind of business or industry was this?
Describe the activity at the location where employed. (For example: hospital, newspaper publishing, mail order house, auto engine manufacturing, bank) (Fill-in-the-blank field)

Question 44 - Is this mainly - (Mark (X) ONE box.)
(Boxes located to the left of response categories)

  • manufacturing?
  • wholesale trade?
  • retail trade?
  • other (agriculture, construction, service, government, etc.)?

For employed people, the data refer to the person's job during the previous week. For those who worked two or more jobs, the data refer to the job where the person worked the greatest number of hours. For unemployed people and people who are not in the labor force but report having had a job within the last five years, the data refer to their last job.

The ACS questions on industry were designed to be consistent with the 1990 Census questions on industry. In the 1990 Census and starting with the 1999 ACS, a check box was added to the employer name questionnaire item that was to be marked by anyone "now on active duty in the Armed Forces..." This information is used by the industry and occupation coders to assist in assigning proper industry codes for active duty military. Prior to 1999, the 1996-1998 ACS class of worker question had an additional response category for "Active duty U.S. Armed Forces member." Other than this exception, American Community Survey questions on industry have remained consistent between 1996 and 2009. Minor changes were implemented to the formatting, numbering of questions, and examples provided.

The written responses to the industry questions are coded using the industry classification system developed for Census 2000 and modified in 2002 and again in 2007. This system consists of 269 categories for employed people, including military, classified into 20 sectors. The modified 2007 census industry classification was developed from the 2007 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) published by the Executive Office of the President, Office of Management and Budget. The first NAICS was developed in 1997 as an improvement over the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system that had been previously updated from the 1930s through 1987. The NAICS was updated again in 2002 and 2007. Internet publishing and broadcasting and web search portals (code 6672) was added and Internet publishing and broadcasting (code 6675) and Internet service providers and web search portals (code 6692) were deleted. Additionally, ACS used 3-digit industrial codes until 2003, when it transitioned to 4-digit industrial codes. As the NAICS changes, the Census Bureau updates its coding procedures accordingly

The NAICS was developed to increase comparability in industry definitions between the United States, Mexico, and Canada. It provides industry classifications that group establishments into industries based on the activities in which they are primarily engaged. The NAICS was created for establishment designations and provides detail about the smallest operating establishment, while industry and occupation data are collected from households and differ in detail and nature from those obtained from establishment surveys. Because of potential disclosure issues, the census industry classification system, while defined in NAICS terms, cannot reflect the full detail for all categories.

Additionally, it should be noted that the industry category, "Public administration," is limited to regular government functions such as legislative, judicial, administrative, and regulatory activities. Other government organizations such as public schools, public hospitals, and bus lines are classified by industry according to the activity in which they are engaged.

For full code lists and other technical information, please see our Methodology page.

Limitations of the Data and Comparisons across Time and Data Sources

Occasionally respondents supply industry descriptions that are not sufficiently specific for precise classification, or they do not report on these questions at all. Certain types of incomplete entries are corrected using the Alphabetical Index of Industries and Occupations. If one or more of the three codes (occupation, industry, or class of worker) is blank after edit procedures, a code is assigned from a donor respondent who is a “similar” person based on questions such as age, sex, educational attainment, income, employment status, and weeks worked. If all of the labor force and income data are blank, all of these economic questions are assigned from a “similar” person who had provided all the necessary data.

Demographic data on occupation, industry, and class of worker are collected for the respondent’s current primary job or the most recent job for those who are unemployed or out of the labor force but have worked in the last 5 years. Other labor force questions, such as questions on earnings or work hours, may have different reference periods and may not limit the response to the primary job. Although the prevalence of multiple jobs is low, data on some labor force items may not exactly correspond to the reported occupation, industry, or class of worker of a respondent.

Comparability of industry data across time is affected by a number of factors, primarily the system used to classify the questionnaire responses. These changes are needed to recognize the “birth” of new industries, the “death” of others, the growth and decline in existing industries, and the desire of analysts and other users for more detail in the presentation of the data. Probably the greatest cause of non-comparability is the movement of a segment from one category to another. Changes in the nature of jobs, respondent terminology, and refinement of category composition made these movements necessary. These changes in the industry classification system thus limit comparability of the data from one year to another, and with other surveys that use older classification systems (see below).

Since 1990, the industry classification has had major revisions to reflect the shift from the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) to the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). These changes were reflected in the Census 2000 industry codes. The 2000-2002 ACS data used the same industry and occupation classification systems used for the 2000 census, therefore, the data are comparable. In 2002, NAICS underwent another change and the industry codes were changed accordingly. Because of the possibility of new industries being added to the list of codes, the Census Bureau needed to have more flexibility in adding codes. Consequently, in 2002, industry census codes were expanded from three-digit codes to four-digit codes. This resulted in a minor change in the industry data that will cause it to not be completely comparable to previous years. The changes were concentrated in the Information Sector where one census code was added (6672) and two were deleted (6675, 6692). For more information on industry comparability across classification systems, please see Technical Paper #65: The Relationship Between the 1990 Census and Census 2000 Industry and Occupation Classification Systems [PDF - 2.5M] .

Finally, beginning in 2006 the population in group quarters (GQ) was included in the ACS. Some types of GQ populations have industrial distributions that are different from the household population. The inclusion of the GQ population could therefore have a noticeable impact on the industrial distribution in some geographic areas with a substantial GQ population.

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Industry and Occupation |  Last Revised: 2013-03-28T16:08:41.062-04:00