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Manufacturing & Trade Inventories & Sales

About the Data

Purpose: To provide broad and timely measures of combined changes in domestic retail trade, wholesale trade and manufacturers' activities. The United States Code, Title 13, authorizes the surveys in this report and provides for voluntary responses.

Coverage: The estimates in this report are based on data from three surveys: the Monthly Retail Trade Survey, the Monthly Wholesale Trade Survey, and the Manufacturers' Shipments, Inventories, and Orders Survey.

Monthly Retail Trade: Companies with one or more establishments that sell merchandise and related services to final consumers.

Monthly Wholesale Trade: Companies with employment that are primarily engaged in merchant wholesale trade in the U.S. These include merchant wholesalers that take title to the goods they sell, and jobbers, industrial distributors, exporters, and importers. Excluded are non-merchant wholesalers such as manufacturers sales branches and offices; agents, merchandise or commodity brokers, and commission merchants; and other businesses whose primary activity is other than wholesale trade.

Manufacturers: Companies that have employees and are classified in Manufacturing. Participating companies include most with 1,000 or more employees and a sample of smaller companies; changes in their performance are assumed to represent all employers.


Monthly Retail Trade: Retail firms provide data on dollar value of retail sales and sales for selected establishments; a subsample of firms also provide data on the value of end-of-month inventories.

Monthly Wholesale Trade: Companies provide data on dollar values of merchant wholesalers sales and end-of-month inventories.

Manufacturers: Data for manufacturers current production levels and future production commitments. Data items include value of shipments; new orders (net of cancellations); end-of-month total inventory, materials and supplies, work-in-process and finished goods inventories.


Monthly Retail Trade: Monthly since 1951; A new sample is drawn approximately every 5 years and updated quarterly. Use of the latest sample began in April 2018.

Monthly Wholesale Trade: Monthly since 1946; A new sample is drawn every 5 years and updated quarterly. Use of the latest sample began in April 2018.

Manufacturers: Monthly since 1958; data are for activity taking place during the calendar month. Firms are contacted at the end of each month with responses due in 15 days.

Methods: For information on survey methodology for the individual surveys, refer to their respective overviews under the topic, methods (Monthly Retail Trade Survey, Monthly Wholesale Trade Survey, and Monthly M3 Survey).

Products: Manufacturing and Trade Inventories and Sales reports are released approximately 6 weeks after the close of the reference month. They contain preliminary figures for the current month and final figures for the previous month. Statistics include sales, inventories and inventories-to-sales ratios for the combined domestic activities of retailers' , wholesalers' and manufacturers. The report also includes retail inventories and retailers' inventories-to-sales ratios. Data are both seasonally adjusted and unadjusted.

Uses: The Bureau of Economic Analysis uses the data in GDP estimates and the leading economic indicator series. The Federal Reserve Board, the Treasury Department, and the Council of Economic Advisers use the data to develop monetary and fiscal policy. The data are widely used by private economists, corporations, trade associations, investment consultants and researchers for market analysis and economic forecasting; and by the news media in general business coverage and specialized commentary.

Special Features: Contributes to a designated principal economic indicator and provides the only source of monthly data on total business activities of retail trade, wholesale trade, and manufacturers.

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