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2002 Economic Census:

Introduction to the Economic Census

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Introduction to the Economic Census


The economic census is the major source of facts about the structure and functioning of the Nation's economy. It provides essential information for government, business, industry, and the general public. Title 13 of the United States Code (Sections 131, 191, and 224) directs the Census Bureau to take the economic census every 5 years, covering years ending in “2” and “7”.

The economic census furnishes an important part of the framework for such composite measures as the gross domestic product estimates, input/output measures, production and price indexes, and other statistical series that measure short-term changes in economic conditions. Specific uses of economic census data include the following:


Data from the 2002 Economic Census are published using primarily the 2002 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). NAICS was first adopted in the United States, Canada, and Mexico in 1997. The 2002 Economic Census covers the following NAICS sectors:

42Wholesale Trade
44-45Retail Trade
48-49Transportation and Warehousing
52Finance and Insurance
53Real Estate and Rental and Leasing
54Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services
55Management of Companies and Enterprises
56Administrative and Support and Waste Management and Remediation Services
61Educational Services
62Health Care and Social Assistance
71Arts, Entertainment, and Recreation
72Accommodation and Food Services
81Other Services (except Public Administration)

(Not listed above are the Agriculture, Forestry, Fishing, and Hunting sector (NAICS 11), partially covered by the census of agriculture conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Public Administration sector (NAICS 92), largely covered by the census of governments conducted by the Census Bureau.)

The 20 NAICS sectors are subdivided into 100 subsectors (three-digit codes), 317 industry groups (four-digit codes), and, as implemented in the United States, 1179 industries (six-digit codes).


Prior to the 1997 Economic Census, data were published according to the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system. While many of the individual NAICS industries correspond directly to industries as defined under the SIC system, most of the higher level groupings do not. Particular care should be taken in comparing data for retail trade, wholesale trade, and manufacturing, which are sector titles used in both NAICS and SIC, but cover somewhat different groups of industries. The 1997 Economic Census Bridge Between NAICS and SIC demonstrates the relationships between NAICS and SIC industries. Where changes are significant, it may not be possible to construct time series that include data for points both before and after 1997.

Most industry classifications remained unchanged between 1997 and 2002, but NAICS 2002 includes substantial revisions within the Construction and Wholesale Trade sectors, and a number of revisions for the Retail and Information sectors. These changes are noted in industry definitions and will be demonstrated in the Bridge Between NAICS 2002 and NAICS 1997.


All results of the 2002 Economic Census are available on the Census Bureau Internet site ( and on digital versatile discs (DVD-ROMs) for sale by the Census Bureau. The American FactFinder system at the Web site allows selective retrieval and downloading of the data. For more information, including a description of reports being issued, see the Web site, write to the U.S. Census Bureau, Washington, DC 20233-6100, or call Customer Services at 301-763-4636.


The economic census has been taken as an integrated program at 5-year intervals since 1967 and before that for 1954, 1958, and 1963. Prior to that time, individual components of the economic census were taken separately at varying intervals.

The economic census traces its beginnings to the 1810 Decennial Census, when questions on manufacturing were included with those for population. Coverage of economic activities was expanded for the 1840 Decennial Census and subsequent censuses to include mining and some commercial activities. The 1905 Manufactures Census was the first time a census was taken apart from the regular decennial population census. Censuses covering retail and wholesale trade and construction industries were added in 1930, as were some service trades in 1933. Censuses of construction, manufacturing, and the other business censuses were suspended during World War II.

The 1954 Economic Census was the first census to be fully integrated, providing comparable census data across economic sectors and using consistent time periods, concepts, definitions, classifications, and reporting units. It was the first census to be taken by mail, using lists of firms provided by the administrative records of other federal agencies. Since 1963, administrative records also have been used to provide basic statistics for very small firms, reducing or eliminating the need to send them census report forms.

The range of industries covered in the economic censuses expanded between 1967 and 2002. The census of construction industries began on a regular basis in 1967, and the scope of service industries, introduced in 1933, was broadened in 1967, 1977, and 1987. While a few transportation industries were covered as early as 1963, it was not until 1992 that the census broadened to include all of transportation, communications, and utilities. Also new for 1992 was coverage of financial, insurance, and real estate industries. With these additions, the economic census and the separate census of governments and census of agriculture collectively covered roughly 98 percent of all economic activity. New for 2002 is coverage of four industries classified in the Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishing sector under the SIC system: landscape architectural services, landscaping services, veterinary services, and pet care services.

Printed statistical reports from the 1992 and earlier censuses provide historical figures for the study of long-term time series and are available in some large libraries. Reports for 1997 were published primarily on the Internet and copies of 1992 reports are also available there. CD-ROMs issued from the 1987, 1992, and 1997 Economic Censuses contain databases that include all or nearly all data published in print, plus additional statistics, such as ZIP Code statistics, published only on CD-ROM.


More information about the scope, coverage, classification system, data items, and publications for each of the economic censuses and related surveys is published in the Guide to the 2002 Economic Census at More information on the methodology, procedures, and history of the census will be published in the History of the 2002 Economic Census at