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Business Formation Statistics

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Special Projects - Weekly BFS by Industry

The Business Formation Statistics (BFS) provide timely data about early-stage business formations at the national, regional, and state level. The BFS use data from the Internal Revenue Service's Employer Identification Number Applications (Form SS-4) to create time series on the number of business applications filed. These data can enhance the ability of researchers, policymakers, analysts, and businesses to assess recent national and local trends in business formation, monitor the state of entrepreneurial activity, and anticipate and respond to shifts in economic conditions.

During recent months, the Census Bureau has prioritized providing high-frequency statistics to users with the publication of weekly data products such as the Small Business Pulse Survey and Household Pulse Survey. While the BFS were initially published at the quarterly level, research had been underway to produce higher frequency statistics since the EIN applications data is delivered weekly to the Census Bureau. The introduction of weekly BFS in April provided data users with timely data on trends in business activity.

Data users have expressed interest in the weekly BFS data by industry. In response, the Census Bureau is providing a one-time release of weekly Business Applications data by industry for all of 2019 and through week 40 of 2020.

The Census Bureau classifies data by industry using an automated industry-coding program for assigning North American Industry Classification (NAICS) codes to new businesses filing the SS-4 form. The automated industry-coding program is based on established patterns in the business name and descriptions provided on the SS-4 form. This auto-coding process assigned NAICS codes to over 80% of all incoming applications in 2020. For some of the applications that did not receive a NAICS code during the auto-coding process, BFS staff used NAICS codes assigned by the Social Security Administration and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. There are still some applications where there was not enough information available to assign a NAICS code. For the remaining unclassified applications, we are exploring the use of machine learning techniques to assign NAICS codes for future publications.

These NAICS-based BFS series provide insight into the industry composition of the overall BFS application counts and we hope to publish NAICS-based BFS series in the future as part of our regular BFS releases. We continue to improve the process for assigning NAICS codes to business applications using existing Census Bureau classification methods combined with new machine learning techniques. The results presented here are preliminary as we continue to refine the NAICS assignments and these results may be revised in a future publication.

Because of rounding, the weekly NAICS BFS series do not add up to the published weekly BFS estimates and the three-digit NAICS series do not add up to the two-digit NAICS series.


The weekly BFS NAICS data are provided in two .csv files: one with Business Applications counts by industry sectors and one with Business Applications counts by industry sub-sectors. Data are provided for each week in 2019 and through week 40 of 2020. For help with using the files, please visit the week date csv file.

  • Weekly Data by Industry Sector: CSV [10KB]
  • Weekly Data by Industry Sub-Sector: CSV [40KB]
For more information on NAICS, please visit the Census Bureau's NAICS information page.


Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Business Formation Statistics | (301) 763-2000 |  Last Revised: October 12, 2021