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General FAQs

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What is the Service Annual Survey?

The Service Annual Survey provides data that help to measure America's current economic performance. The Service Annual Survey uses a sample of approximately 78,000 selected service businesses, the Service Annual Survey collects revenue; expenses; e-commerce sales; and, for some industries, exports, inventories, class of customer, and detail product lines based on the North American Product Classification System (NAPCS).

The government uses the data to determine economic policy; private industry relies on these data for planning and research.

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Is this survey mandatory?

Yes. Your response is required by law. Title 13 of the U.S. Code requires businesses and other organizations that receive the questionnaire(s) to answer the questions and return the report(s) to the Census Bureau. The law also provides that copies retained in your files are confidential and immune from legal process.

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Who uses the data?

  1. The Bureau of Economic Analysis uses these data for the Nation's Gross Domestic Product (GDP) estimates and in developing the national accounts' input-output tables.
  2. The Bureau of Labor Statistics uses these data as input to its producer price indices and in developing productivity measurements.
  3. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services uses health services data to estimate expenditures for the National Health Accounts.
  4. Trade and professional organizations use these data to analyze industry trends and benchmark their own statistical programs, develop forecasts, and evaluate regulatory requirements.
  5. The media use these data for news reports and background information.
  6. Private businesses use these data to measure market share, analyze business potential, and plan investments.

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What services are covered in the SAS?

Currently the Service Annual Survey covers the following NAICS sectors:

  • Utilities (Sector 22)
  • Transportation & Warehousing (Sectors 48 and 49)
  • Information (Sector 51)
  • Finance and Insurance (Sector 52)
  • Real Estate and Rental and Leasing (Sector 53)
  • Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services (Sector 54)
  • Administrative and Support and Waste Management and Remediation Services (Sector 56)
  • Educational Services (Sector 61)
  • Health Care and Social Assistance (Sector 62)
  • Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation (Sector 71)
  • Accommodation and Food Services (Sector 72)
  • Other Services (except Public Administration) (Sector 81)

These sectors are designated by NAICS.

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What is the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS)?

NAICS is used to classify a business’ primary activity.  For further information regarding NAICS, you can access the following website: NAICS

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What is the North American Product Classification System (NAPCS)

NAPCS provides a comprehensive demand/market-oriented classification framework for services and goods. For further information regarding NAPCS, you can access the following website: NAPCS

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I report data in the Quarterly Services Survey (QSS)? Why can’t you sum up the data?

The SAS collects additional data not included on the Quarterly Services Survey , including e-commerce and detailed expense data. Often, companies have final adjustments to their quarterly level that we wouldn't know about without the annual survey.

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What is sampling variability and how do I interpret it?

Because estimates are based on a sample rather than the entire population, the published estimates may differ from the actual, but unknown, population values. In principle, many random samples could be drawn and each would give a different result. This is because each sample would be made up of different businesses who would give different answers to the questions asked. The spread of these results is the sampling variability.

Common measures of the variability among these estimates are the sampling variance, the standard error, and the coefficient of variation (CV). The sampling variance is defined as the squared difference, averaged over all possible samples of the same size and design, between the estimator and its average value. The standard error is the square root of the sampling variance. The CV expresses the standard error as a percentage of the estimate to which it refers. For example, an estimate of 200 units that has an estimated standard error of 10 units has an estimated CV of 5 percent. The CV has the advantage of being a relative, rather than an absolute, measure and can be used to compare the reliability of one estimate to another.

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What steps does the Census Bureau take to ensure that confidential data are secure?

The Census Bureau takes its commitment to confidentiality very seriously.  It constantly pursues new procedures, technologies, and methodologies to safeguard individual data. Every person with access to person or business data – from the Director on down – is sworn by Title 13 to protect confidentiality and is subject to criminal penalties if they do not. Tight computer security and strict access and handling procedures are followed.

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When will the estimates from the survey be released?

Service Annual Survey reports are normally published no later than 13 months after the end of the survey year.

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Sample Revision FAQs

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What is a sample revision and why is it necessary?

A sample revision is the process used to re-design and re-select the samples for many of the Census Bureau’s surveys of the retail, wholesale, and service industries.  This process is performed to

  • Ensure each sample is representative of its target population
  • Improve the efficiency of each sample
  • Incorporate updates to the industry classification structure
  • Expand industry coverage of the survey
  • Update questions and instructions to obtain more accurate data, and
  • Redistribute burden for small and medium size businesses

The current Service Annual Survey sample was introduced in 2017 with the release of estimates for reference year 2016.

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How often is a sample revision performed for the Service Annual Survey?

Sample revisions are performed approximately every 5 to 7 years. During the period for which the samples are used, updates are made on a quarterly basis to reflect changes in the business universe. These updates are designed to account for new businesses (births) and businesses which discontinue operations (deaths). The samples are also updated to reflect mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, splits, and other changes to the business universe.

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When will estimates from the new Service Annual Survey sample be released?

Service Annual Survey estimates will be based on the new sample effective with the release of estimates for the 2016 reference year in November 2017.

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What is the size of the Service Annual Survey sample?

The size of both the new and the current Service Annual Survey sample is approximately 78,000 employer firms.

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Are the estimates from different Service Annual Survey samples comparable?

In most cases, yes.  Whenever possible, estimates from different samples have been put on a comparable basis.  For a detailed description of the process used to link the estimates from different samples and for specific information on which industry estimates are not comparable, please refer to the methodology section.

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What is the impact of adopting the 2012 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) definitions for the Service Annual Survey?

NAICS is scheduled to be reviewed every 5 years for potential revisions, so that the classification system can keep pace with the changing economy.  Service Annual Survey estimates are currently published on a 2007 NAICS basis.  Effective with the release of 2016 estimates in the first quarter of 2013, Service Annual Survey estimates will be published on a 2012 NAICS basis.

The changes between 2007 NAICS and 2012 NAICS that affect industries within the scope of the Service Annual Survey are summarized below.

  • Sector 22, Utilities- 2007 NAICS code Other Electric Power Generation was broken out into five new 6-digit industries: Solar Electric Power Generation, Wind Electric Power Generation, Geothermal Electric Power Generation, Biomass Electric Power Generation, and Other Electric Power Generation.
  • Sector 72,Accommodation and Food Services - Full-Service Restaurants and Limited-Service Eating Places were restructured.

For a more detailed comparison between the 2007 and 2012 NAICS, please follow the NAICS Concordance Tables.

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