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The Survey of Business Owners and Self-Employed Persons Is Key to Explaining America’s Economy

Fri Sep 05 2014
John H. Thompson
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Did you know that there are 27.1 million non-farm businesses in America? The U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Business Owners and Self-Employed Persons  provides the only comprehensive source of statistics about business ownership in the U.S. The Census Bureau conducts the SBO every five years.  This is the first time the SBO is being conducted primarily online.

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If you own a business, such as a salon or a landscaping company, you may be one of the one million Americans selected to participate in the Survey of Business Owners. Even if you do not have employees other than yourself, we want to hear from you. By participating online now, you can help provide consistent, comparable, and comprehensive statistics on U.S. business performance. For example, the 2007 SBO showed us that 5.9 percent of responding firms reported income from e-commerce – an important insight into how the Internet is shaping our economy.

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Right now we are in the process of asking respondents to fill out the Survey of Business Owners,  which is part of, and benchmarked to, the 2012 Economic Census. We begin the Survey of Business Owners after the data collection phase of the Economic Census is complete. It provides information every five years on business characteristics (e.g., if a business is home-based, or how much start-up capital it received) and owner characteristics (such as gender, race and ethnicity, and veteran status) for businesses of all sizes across America.

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Businesses of all sizes are crucial to the U.S. economy and having quality statistics on businesses is critical. Some of the ways that government leaders and others use SBO statistics include:

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  • Business owners are able to analyze their operations in comparison to similar firms, compute their market share, and assess their growth prospects.
  • Entrepreneurs can make informed decisions about what types of products and services to sell, and where to sell them. They can also use SBO data in business plans and loan applications.
  • The Small Business Administration can assess business assistance needs and allocate available resources.
  • Local government commissions are able to establish and evaluate contract procurement practices.
  • Federal, state, and local government agencies have a framework for planning, directing, and assessing programs that promote veteran-, women-, and minority-owned businesses.
  • Researchers can analyze long-term economic and demographic shifts, and differences in ownership and performance among geographic areas.

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Although some Census Bureau surveys have given respondents the option to reply via the Internet, the 2012 SBO is the first to utilize the Internet as the primary form of response. I’m pleased that the Census Bureau has embraced the use of technology to make responding to surveys, like the SBO, easier for you.

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If you received a letter about Survey of Business Owners and Self-Employed Persons, it included instructions for filling it out online. If you have questions, I encourage you to call 1-888-824-9954, Monday – Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern Time, for more information. Our staff can answer any questions about the survey you may have. Visit our website to learn more:

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