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U.S. Census Connections: A Resource Guide

Economic Census

The Economic Census is a smaller, yet no less impressive system also conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau every five years of all business establishments in the U.S., providing a snapshot of the nation's economy from the national to the local level. It collects data on the U.S. economy from over 7 million businesses in order to cover nearly all of the nation's business sector establishments.

Alan Greenspan, Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board has said that the Economic Census "is indispensable to understanding America's economy. It assures the accuracy of the statistics we rely on for sound economic policy and for successful business planning."1

The history of the economic censuses dates back to the 1810 Decennial Census where questions were first asked on "25 broad categories of manufactured products and more than 200 kinds of goods."2 In 1840, questions were added on mining and some commercial activities. Initially collected as part of the decennial census, the economic census expanded in size and scope, broadening its coverage to include more and more industries and services until it subsequently launched into its own separate series beginning in the 1930s, continuing to the present.

The economic census has been taken every five years since 1967. There were also economic censuses taken in 1954, 1958 and 1963. In 1905 a separate Manufactures Census was taken, and in 1930, censuses covering retail and wholesale trade and construction were added, along with some service trades in 1933. During World War II, business, manufacturing, and construction censuses were suspended.

History of the Economic Census

The U. S. Census Bureau offers the following online resources and documents outlining the history of the Economic Census.

The following materials link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to digital content are provided when available.

Finding and Using Economic Census Data

The following titles link to fuller bibliographic information in the Library of Congress Online Catalog. Links to digital content are provided when available.

Notes

  1. Alan Greenspan, cited in U.S. Bureau of the Census. Press Release. January 1998. 1997 Economic Census--Business Leaders Agree It's 'Indispensable' " Back to text
  2. U.S. Census Bureau. History. Index of Questions Back to text