Firms in the economic census and related programs are divided into those sent report forms and those not sent report forms. For most economic census sectors and programs, all large- and medium-size firms and all multi-establishment firms were sent report forms to be completed for each of their establishments and returned to the Census Bureau.
For most sectors and programs, report forms were also mailed to a sample of small employers (those with paid employees). This sample consists of single-establishment firms with payroll below a specified cut off. This cut off and the sampling rate, varies by economic census sector, industry and geography. However, for most very small firms, data from existing administrative records of other federal agencies are used. These records provide basic information for the business, including data on sales, payroll, number of employees, legal form of organization and other statistics. Other industry-specific census statistics are estimated only from those establishments that receive and return a report form.
All data for firms with no paid employees during the year (also known as "nonemployers") were obtained from administrative records of other federal agencies. Data for nonemployers are included in the EWKS report from the economic census and are also released in the annual Nonemployer Statistics series.