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About the Economic Census

About the Economic Census

Every five years, the U.S. Census Bureau collects extensive statistics about businesses that are essential to understanding the American economy.  This official count, better known as the Economic Census, serves as the foundation for the measurement of U.S. businesses and their economic impact.  As part of the Census Bureau’s mission to provide timely information on the health of the U.S. economy, this “business” census serves as the most extensive collection of data related to business activity.  Nearly 4 million business locations, large, medium, and small, covering most industries and all geographic areas of the United States will receive surveys tailored to their primary business activity.

Starting with the 2017 Economic Census, respondents will use a secure online portal to respond making filing easier while at the same time improving data quality and reducing costs.  Small companies located in the U.S. territories will have a paper option available, including a Spanish version for Puerto Rico.

For additional information on how to complete your survey, go to Information for Respondents.

Legal Authority and Confidentiality

Response is required by law.  Title 13, United States Code (U.S.C.), Section 131, authorizes the survey by requiring businesses and other organizations included in the survey to answer the questions and submit a response.  Sections 224 and 225 require businesses and other organizations that receive this questionnaire to answer the questions and return the report to the U.S. Census Bureau.

By Section 9 of the same law, the information that businesses and other organizations provide is confidential.  It may be seen only by persons sworn to uphold the confidentiality of Census Bureau information and may be used only for statistical purposes.  Further, copies retained in respondents’ files are immune from legal process.

Why is it Important?

The data produced from the Economic Census are important for your industry, your community, and your business:

• Statistics from the Economic Census provide policymakers with the evidence based information used to make sound programmatic decisions.
• Other Census Bureau economic surveys use Economic Census data to construct their sampling frames and to improve accuracy of annual, quarterly, and monthly estimates.
• Federal agencies rely on the data as the basis for key measures of economic activity, such as the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), National Income and Product Accounts (NIPAs), and the Producer Price Index (PPI).
• Trade and Business associations, along with Chambers of Commerce, rely on Economic Census data to measure key business facts they can use to gauge organizational structure and product trends.
• Individual businesses use the data from the Economic Census to make decisions about operating sites, capital investments, and product development.

Planning Criteria

In order to prepare for the Economic Census, the Census Bureau consults with a variety of experts both inside and outside of the Federal Government.  This includes working with public advisory committees, key Federal data users, and associations and companies to gather input, as well as attending conferences to gather information on how we can make the Economic Census work better for you.

Data Dissemination

The key statistics produced for the Economic Census include Total Number of Establishments; Sales, Value of Shipments, or Revenue; Primary Business Activity; Total Number of Employees; Total Annual Payroll; Total First Quarter Payroll; and industry specific statistics.

The extensive and comprehensive data products include over 950 detailed industries across 18 industrial sectors classified using the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS).  Geographic Area Statistics tables will be produced for nearly 21,000 geographic areas including the U.S. Territories.  Additionally, over 7,900 goods and services products will be released for the first time on the new North American Product Classification System (NAPCS) basis.

2017 Release Schedule

Data will be released on a flow basis from September 2019 through December 2021.  To see a list of important dates, see Economic Census Key Dates. During the release process, in the event of an unplanned data revision, information on revised statistics will be available under “Updates."

Contact Us

Contact information for both Economic Census of the US and Economic Census of Island Areas can be found on this page.

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