Monthly & Annual Wholesale Trade

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About the Surveys

About the Annual Wholesale Trade Survey


  • To provide estimates that are more detailed than what is collected on a monthly basis, and more current than the five-year Economic Census.
  • Title 13 of the United States Code authorizes the Census Bureau to conduct this survey and provides for mandatory responses.


  • Merchant wholesale companies provide estimates on sales, e-commerce, end-of-year inventories, inventories held outside the U.S., purchases, and total operating expenses. Sales tax and detailed expense items are requested every 5 years, with the most recent collection in 2012. Purchases and detailed operating expenses are only collected for merchant wholesale companies, excluding manufacturers’ sales branches and offices.
  • Agent, broker, and electronic market companies provide estimates on sales, commissions, and operating expenses.

Uses of Annual Wholesale Trade Data:

  • 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.
  • Business and industry groups use the estimates to forecast future demand.
  • Researchers use the estimates to benchmark the results from their own sampling operations.
  • Manufacturers can use inventory estimates as a proxy for the distributors confidence for future expected sales.


  • Estimates are typically released 14 months after the end of the data year.
  • Estimates are benchmarked to the most recent Economic Census of Wholesale Trade.


  • Released as a separate report annually since 2003. Prior to 2003 was released as part of the Annual Benchmark Report for Wholesale Trade.
  • New samples are drawn approximately every 5 years and are updated quarterly. Use of the latest sample began with the 2011 annual report.

Coverage: Companies with employment that are primarily engaged in wholesale trade in the U.S., as defined by the 2007 NAICS

Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Service Sector Statistics Division | Last Revised: November 18, 2015