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Economic Census

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To provide periodic and comprehensive statistics about business establishments and activities. The United States Code, Title 13, requires this census and provides for mandatory responses.


All domestic non-farm business establishments, other than those operated by governments. Most reports are confined to businesses with paid employees.


Basic data obtained for all establishments including kind of business, geographic location, type of ownership, total revenue, annual and first quarter payroll, and employees in the pay period including March 12. Additional inquiries vary from sector to sector and, in some cases, industry to industry.


Every 5 years since 1967, for years ending in "2" and "7." Previous economic censuses were conducted for years 1963, 1958, and 1954. Data collection begins in December of the census year and responses are due in about 8 weeks. Data are requested for activities taking place during the census calendar year.


A mail-out/mail-back data collection for establishments of multi-unit companies, large single-unit employers, and a sample of small employers; and administrative records data for non-selected small employers and all nonemployers. All establishments of multi-unit firms and single-unit employers with annualized payroll above a size cutoff (for most industries, equivalent to about 3 employees) receive a census form. A sample of small employers also receives a census form. This sample is selected using a stratified sampling procedure with strata based on industry and geography. Basic data for non-selected small employers and nonemployers are obtained from Federal administrative records. Estimates for sales by product line and other industry-specific data for non-manufacturing and non-mining establishments are based partly on small employer sample results.


Most data are available from the Internet and on CD-ROM. The principal publications are:

Industry Series reports present preliminary statistics, packaged for individual industries or groups of related industries.

Geographic Area Series reports supersede industry series data, and are packaged by sector and by state within sector. Reports provide industry statistics for each state and the District of Columbia, and, in most sectors, metropolitan and micropolitan areas, counties and places. Geographic detail available for each sector is summarized in the Guide to the Economic Census.

Subject Series reports supplement other products and present tabulations for the U.S. with some state detail. Reports for most sectors include Establishment and Firm Size (Including Legal Form of Organization); and Miscellaneous Subjects Reports for the manufacturing sector include General Summary, Products Summary, Materials Consumed Summary, and Concentration Ratios in Manufacturing.


The Bureau of Economic Analysis uses the data to benchmark GDP estimates and prepare input-output tables. The Bureau of Labor Statistics uses the data to benchmark producer price indexes and prepare productivity statistics. The Federal Reserve Board uses the data to prepare indexes of industrial production.

State and local agencies use the data to forecast economic conditions and plan policies. Trade associations, companies, and researchers use the data for economic planning, market analysis and investment and production decisions. National and local news media use the data in general and special business coverage.

The Census Bureau uses the data in sampling and benchmarking activities for current surveys.


Nonemployer Statistics provides annual data on the businesses without paid employees that are excluded from most economic census reports.

County Business Patterns provides annual data on the same businesses with paid employees covered in most economic census reports, including establishments, employment, and payroll, but no measure of sales or output.

Statistics of U.S. Businesses provides annual data on business with paid employees classified by employment-size of the enterprise.

Survey of Business Owners (formerly known as the surveys of minority- and women-owned business enterprises) is conducted once every 5 years in conjunction with the economic census, and obtains information about race, gender and other owner characteristics; business acquisition; and financing methods.

Business Expenses Survey is conducted once every 5 years in conjunction with the economic census, and compiles national-level data on detailed operating expenses by kind of business, such as labor costs, depreciation, rent, utilities, and purchased services.

Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey was conducted once every 5 years in conjunction with the economic census through 2002, and provides information about truck characteristics and uses.

Commodity Flow Survey is conducted once every 5 years in conjunction with the economic census, and produces data on the movement of goods in the United States.

Business Register provides a current and comprehensive database of U.S. business establishments and companies that serves as the mailing list or sampling frame for the economic census and most other business surveys.

Economic Census (Classification) determines industry classification and physical location for establishments without complete information on file.




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U.S. Economy

Economy Overview

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