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Monthly Wholesale Trade

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Why is the Monthly Wholesale Trade Survey conducted?

The Monthly Wholesale Trade Survey is conducted to provide an up to date indication of trends for sales and inventories of U.S. Merchant Wholesalers, excluding manufacturers' sales branches and offices (MSBOs). The survey provides a reliable measure of current economic activity that is essential to an objective assessment of the need for and impact of a wide range of public policy decisions.

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

The North American Industry Classification System is the standard used by federal agencies in classifying a business' primary activity. It replaced SIC (Standard Industrial Classification) beginning in 1997. For further information regarding NAICS, you can access the following website: NAICS.

Users should note that not all NAICS and SIC industries are comparable and there may be a break in the time series as SIC was phased out and NAICS was phased in.

What are economic indicators?

Economic indicators are statistical figures, which are used to track the growth and decline of activity in specific segments of the economy over time. Additional economic indicators produced in other areas at the Census Bureau include Manufacturers' Shipments, Inventories, and Orders; U.S. International Trade; Labor Force; Income; Poverty; Government Budget and Debt; Plant and Equipment Expenditures; and Services sector data.

What data are produced by the Monthly Wholesale Trade Survey?

The Monthly Wholesale Trade Survey collects and disseminates sales and inventories data for U.S. Merchant Wholesalers, excluding manufacturers' sales branches and offices. Data are disseimated on an unadjusted and adjusted basis. Unadjusted data are computed by summing all of the weighted data (reported or imptued) for all reporting units in the sample. The adjusted estimates are adjusted for seasonal variation and trading-day differences using the Census Bureau's X-13 ARIMA-SEATS program.

How are the data used?

Monthly Wholesale Trade Survey data are used by the Bureau of Economic Analysis as input to their quarterly gross domestic product (GDP) and GDP by industry estimates. It also provides the Federal Reserve Board and Council of Economic Advisors with timely information to assess current economic performance. Other government and private stakeholders benefit from a better understanding of important cyclical components of our economy.

Why aren't the latest Monthly Wholesale reports for the current month?

The collection of monthly data doesn't begin until the month ends. While companies are requested to provide data within the first 10 business days, it usually takes at least 4 weeks to obtain an acceptable response level. Processing and analyzing overlap this collection period and it takes an additional 5 business days to finalize the report. Preliminary MWTS estimates are typically published approximately 40 days after the reference month. Final estimates are published approximately 70 days after the reference month.

A schedule of all upcoming MWTS data releases is available at the following link: Release Schedule

What is sampling variability and how do I interpret it?

Since 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.

How do the Monthly Wholesale historic release files differ from the Monthly Wholesale historic time series files?

The historic release files from the surveys' web sites are the reports as they were originally released. No updates are made to the data as subsequent releases are made and additional analysis is performed. The historic time series files are updated each month in two ways:

  • Current month preliminary estimates are added.
  • Prior month estimates are finalized.

What steps does the Census Bureau undertake 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 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.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Economic Indicators Division |   Last Revised: February 08, 2024