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Census Bureau Data Show Third Quarter is Peak Time for Electric and Water Utilities

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As temperatures are colder and daylight hours shorter, some Americans are pining for warm summer nights and walks on the beach.

U.S. electric and water utility businesses might share their feelings for the return of summer, but for very different reasons. Third-quarter revenue, which include summer’s hottest months, are the highest for their industries.

Currents in Utilities Industry

Patterns in data are sometimes difficult to identify while others are more readily apparent.

In the first quarter of 2010, the U.S. Census Bureau began collecting quarterly revenue data for North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) 2211: Electric Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution and NAICS 2213: Water, Sewage and Other Systems in the Quarterly Services Survey (QSS).

The public commonly refers to these industries as electric and water utilities. While the QSS time series only goes back to 2010, the third quarter generally shows peak revenue every year.

As shown in the graphs below, the pattern continues in the third quarter of 2018 for both utilities.

During just this year, U.S. electric utility revenue (NAICS 2211) for the third quarter of 2018 was $137.9 billion, an increase of 20.1 percent (± 2.7 percent) from the second quarter of 2018.

U.S. water utility revenue (NAICS 2213) for the third quarter of 2018 was $4.5 billion, an increase of 20.4 percent (± 6.1 percent) from the second quarter of 2018.

New Seasonally Adjusted Estimates

As the services sector continues to be a major component of the U.S. economy, the QSS strives to provide data users with more ways to understand and analyze the data.

Industries that exhibit seasonal patterns, like electric and water utilities, can mask underlying economic conditions. However, seasonal adjustment produces data in which the values of neighboring quarters are usually easier to compare.

Beginning with the March 2019 release for the fourth quarter of 2018, the Census Bureau will release new seasonally adjusted estimates of Selected Services Total revenue and revenue for selected industries within NAICS sectors 22, 48-49, 51 and 54 into the Full Quarterly Services Report. For more information, please visit our seasonal adjustment FAQs.

Justin Jarrett is a survey statistician in the Census Bureau’s Economic Indicators Division.

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Page Last Revised - October 8, 2021
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