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North American Industry Classification System

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Welcome to this U.S. Census Bureau e-tutorial on NAICS. (Music in background).

The North American Industry Classification System (or “NAICS”) is a coding system created by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. The U.S. Census Bureau serves as the official host for the NAICS online system for this office.

The system is used to classify economic industries and allows the three countries to produce comparable industry statistics.

The Census Bureau uses NAICS for statistical purposes only. So how does NAICS work? Essentially, NAICS is a comprehensive list and description of all the various types of businesses in the economy.

Most broadly, NAICS splits the economy into 20 “sectors.” Each sector is represented by a 2-digit “NAICS code.” For example, the construction sector is represented by the NAICS code “23.”

We know that each individual business is within a particular sector. Thus, the business can be categorized by the sector’s 2-digit NAICS code. Note that each physical location of a business has a NAICS code. Typically an entire company would not have the same code.

The NAICS code represents the business location’s primary activity.

While NAICS covers 20 broad sectors, within each of those sectors are more specific levels. These levels are represented by codes up to 6-digits. The longer the NAICS code, the more specific the description of the business.

NAICS covers all economic activities and represents over 1,000 national industries.

Let’s look at an example. As we mentioned earlier, the first two digits of the NAICS code represent the broadest description for a business. A business in the information sector has a NAICS code beginning with 51. The third digit of the code represents increasing detail about the business. For example, 515 means our business is not only in the Information Sector, but in particular, the Broadcasting Subsector. And the 4th digit provides even more description. 5151 indicates the business is in the “Radio and Television Broadcasting” industry group.

You get the idea; the 5th and 6th digits of the code describe the business even further. This coding system allows for efficient collection, production, and analysis of economic data, such as:

  • Payroll
  • Employment
  • Sales
  • Receipts
  • Revenue
  • Shipments
  • Capital Expenditures
  • Inventories, etc.

Now that we’ve looked at the basics of what NAICS codes are, let’s first learn how to find a NAICS code for a business.

Then, let’s look at a key place to find data about particular NAICS codes.

To find a NAICS code for a business, go to the Census Bureau’s NAICS page. Find the area that says “2012 NAICS Search.” (You will notice that there are search boxes for 2007 and 2002. This is because NAICS codes can change every five years.)

As an example, if you are looking to find the NAICS code for beauty salons, you could enter the keyword “beauty” or “salons” or “beauty salons.”

A list of NAICS codes and the corresponding industry descriptions will appear. Select the code that best reflects your beauty salon business. Now to actually find economic data about a NAICS code, a key source is the Industry Statistics Portal, or “ISP.” The ISP provides access to information about the code, but also access to data for the industry. At the Census Bureau’s Business and Industry page, click “Industry Statistics Portal.” Type in an industry and you’ll see the Census Bureau programs that provide statistics and visualizations for that industry.

Note the helpful visualizations available for each NAICS code you select. It provides a map and key industry statistics for multiple years of the Economic Census.

We think you’ll find the ISP a most helpful source for finding all types of data about NAICS codes.

In conclusion, NAICS codes help us classify and create statistics for the industries in our economy.

We update our website often, so the pages you see may look different from the ones you’ve seen in this tutorial.

If you can’t find what you are looking for, you can call 1-800-75-NAICS, email naics@census.gov, or look at the Frequently Asked Questions on the NAICS page. If you have other questions about census data or products, please contact our Customer Services Call Center at 1-800-923-8282, or go to our question and answer center at ask.census.gov.

Thank you for watching this Census Bureau tutorial on the North American Industry Classification System.

The U.S. Census Bureau – Measuring America: People, Places & Our Economy.

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