Every five years, for years ending in 2 and 7, the U.S. Census Bureau collects detailed 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 businesses in the U.S. 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. Business establishments, covering most industries and geographic areas of the United States and Island Areas, are surveyed according to their primary business activity.
Data produced from the Economic Census are based on the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) and several key statistics are tabulated including number of establishments, number of employees, payroll, and measure of output (sales, value of shipments, or revenue).
The Economic Census is the U.S. Government's official five-year measure of American business and the economy. It is conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, and response is required by law. Title 13, United States Code (U.S.C.), (sections 131, 224, and 225) authorizes the survey and requires businesses and other organizations that receive this questionnaire to answer the questions and return the report to the U.S. Census Bureau. The law also specifies penalties for firms that fail to report.
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.
The Economic Census is an establishment-based survey. Data from over eight million business locations are represented in the Economic Census. To reduce burden on the business community, not every business is contacted. Approximately 4.2 million business locations, large, medium, and small, covering most industries and geographic areas of the United States and Island Areas will be asked to complete surveys tailored to their primary business activity. For the remaining small businesses, administrative records are used in lieu of direct reporting.
The Economic Census includes all establishments that:
Industry coverage was expanded for the 2022 Economic Census to include NAICS 1151 Support Activities for Crop Production and NAICS 1152 Support Activities for Animal Production.
The Economic Census of Island Areas covers Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa.
The Economic Census collects core and trade sector specific content to serve as key benchmarks to the economy at a point in time, i.e., every 5 years by industry and geography. Core items asked of all business are questions such as Operational Status; Primary Business or Activity; Sales, Shipments, Receipts, or Revenue; Employment and Payroll; and Products detail of Sales, Shipments, Receipts or Revenue. Other questions may include trade or industry specific questions as well as Special Items that are trade specific or cross sector questions.
For content on the Economic Census, extensive evaluation goes into incorporating new questions, deleting obsolete questions, or modifying existing questions based on input from research, testing, respondents, data users, trade associations, and other government agencies, as well as NAICS and the North American Product Classification System (NAPCS) updates to ensure we are capturing an accurate and relevant picture of the economy.
Each Economic Census survey questionnaire is submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for approval.
The Economic Census is conducted every 5 years, for years ending in 2 or 7.
Companies will satisfy their reporting requirement for this information collection by accessing a secure online portal and reporting data electronically, using a web-based response driven reporting tool. Companies with multiple locations have additional functionality of downloading and uploading data spreadsheets to aid reporting. New functionality for the 2022 Economic Census will include smart searches allowing companies to search and select their primary business activity and relevant product and services.
For the 2022 Economic Census of Island Areas, respondents are encouraged to report electronically but small companies located in the Island Areas will have a paper option available, including a Spanish version for Puerto Rico.
For additional information on how to complete an economic census survey, see Information for Respondents.
The key statistics produced for the Economic Census include Total Number of Establishments; Sales, Value of Shipments, or Revenue; Primary Business or Activity; Total Number of Employees; Payroll; and industry specific statistics.
The data products include over 950 detailed industries across 19 industrial sectors classified using NAICS. Geographic Area Statistics tables will be produced for nearly 21,000 geographic areas including the Island Areas. Additionally, over 7,900 goods and services products will be released based on NAPCS.
Data releases are produced and categorized by the following sets of statistics:
For a full list of data produced from the 2022 Economic Census, see Latest Releases once they are made available to the public. Data produced from the Economic Census are available via the Census Bureau’s interactive application data.census.gov or on the web via Economic Census by Year. See Finding Economic Census Data Using Data Tools for more information.
The Economic Census provides the most comprehensive measure of the U.S. economy, producing industry statistics at the national, state, and local levels. Its data products provide the foundation for other key measures of economic performance. This information is used by businesses, policy makers, local governments, communities, individuals, students, and researchers for economic development, business decisions, strategic planning, and data reports. Additionally, Federal agencies also rely on economic census data as input to a variety of economic products.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis uses economic census data to prepare updates of the Gross National Product (GNP) and GNP weight deflators; the Gross Domestic Product (GDP); the National Income and Product Accounts (NIPAs); and the annual input-output (I/O) tables.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics uses economic census data to calculate productivity series, updating producer price indexes (PPI), and calculate weights when new components are added.
The Federal Reserve Board uses economic census data to prepare the Index of Industrial Production.
The Census Bureau uses the economic census to benchmark annual, quarterly, and monthly estimates and to construct their sampling frames.
State and local agencies use economic census data for economic policymaking and forecasting.
Consultants, trade associations, and chambers of commerce use economic census data to help their business clients and members 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.
Data will be released on a flow basis beginning with First Look in March 2024, Geographic Area Statistics in March 2025, Product Statistics in September 2025, and all remaining releases by March 2026. See Planned Releases for a brief description of each statistics set and the planned release date or date range. See Latest Releases for a full list of data produced from the 2022 Economic Census and the official release date once they are made available to the public.
Contact information for both the Economic Census of the U.S. and Economic Census of Island Areas can be found here.