Economic Census

economic census

A comprehensive statistical profile of the economy, from the national, to the state, to the local level

Once every 5 years, the economic census provides a comprehensive statistical profile of the economy, from the national, to the state, to the local level. Censuses are taken at 5-year intervals during years ending with the digits 2 and 7—for example, 1992, 1997, 2002, 2007, and so on. As shown in Figure 11.8, the economic census covers economic activity in important sectors such as manufacturing, retail and wholesale trade, services, minerals, and construction. Sectors covered account for roughly three-quarters of total economic activity originating in the private sector. Principal industry groups with incomplete coverage are agriculture, education, financial services, forestry, professional services, and transportation.

The economic census is the primary source of detailed public facts about the nation's economy. As such, census data are essential inputs for decisions made by managers in government, business, and the not-for-profit sector. Economic census data allows businesses to compare company sales to census totals for specific industries or areas, calculate market share, evaluate performance, and make plans for expansion or asset redeployment. Companies can use census data to lay out territories, allocate advertising, and locate new stores or offices. Firms supplying goods and services to other businesses also use census data to target industries for business-to-business marketing. Manufacturers look at statistics on materials consumed to learn more about industries that use their products and to gain insight concerning industry growth potential. All firms compare operating ratios to census averages to see how they stack up against competitive norms. Consultants, government researchers, and job seekers use census data to analyze changes in industrial structure, location, and the pace of growth in job opportunities. Both state and federal regulators use census data to monitor business activity as captured by fluctuations in monthly retail sales, gross domestic product (GDP), and other such measures. Industry trade associations and news media study census data to learn key business facts and to project trends. Legislators use census data in the preparation and evaluation of new legislation designed to spur economic development. State and local government agencies monitor census information to better understand their regional economic base and to help them better focus efforts to attract new businesses and/or retain existing firms.

The economic census covers nearly all of the U.S. economy in its establishment statistics. There also are several related programs, including the collection and publication of statistics on minority- and women-owned businesses. Separate censuses of agriculture and government are also conducted at the same time as the economic census. Results from this most recent economic census were issued on CD-ROM and on the Internet in a series of continuing reports over a period of more than 2 years, starting in early 1999. Only summary reports are issued in print.

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