The Ohio State Universities | University Libraries | Resource Guides

Economic Census

Federal Depository Library Program

Return to Government Documents and Information Home

Profile Image

Mary Ries
211 Thompson Library
1858 Neil Avenue
Columbus, OH 43210-1285
Phone: 614-688-8770

 Federal Depository Library Logo

Economic Census



The Economic Census provides a detailed portrait of the Nation's economy from the national to the local level.  It covers all domestic non-farm business establishments other than those operated by governments.  The census has been conducted every five years, in years ending in '2' and '7,' since 1967.  Prior to 1967, it was conducted in 1963, 1958, and 1954, with earlier versions being collected and published piecemeal.  The 1954 Economic Census was the first to be fully integrated, thus establishing the template for the modern economic census.   The next census will be conducted in 2017.

…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 covering service trades in 1933.  Censuses of construction, manufacturing, and the other business service censuses were suspended during World War II.  … 

The range of industries covered in the census has been gradually growing.  These industries have been organized by various methods.  From 1937 -1992 the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system was used.   Since 1997 the Census Bureau has been using the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). Over time the industry classifications used by SIC and NAICS have been revised slightly, which can have an impact when comparing data from one census to the next.  Comparing U.S. data to that of other nations can be tricky.  Other nations use other industry classification systems.  The International Standard Industrial Classification (ISIC) is the most commonly used.  To compare U.S. data to that of other nations it may be necessary to convert from NAICS to ISIC, etc.  ISIC is also not static.

Economic Census statistics are collected and published primarily by "establishment."  An establishment is a business or industrial unit at a single physical location that produces or distributes goods or performs services, for example, a single store or factory. Many companies own or control more than one establishment, and those establishments may be located in different geographic areas and may be engaged in different kinds of business. By collecting separate information for each establishment, the Economic Census can include detailed data for each industry and area.

The Economic Census produces a portrait of business activities in industries and communities all across our nation. Alan Greenspan calls the Economic Census "indispensable to understanding America's economy." Commonly used economic indicators - such as the gross domestic product and monthly retail sales - depend on the Economic Census for continued accuracy. But this information is not just for government planners. It is also used by businesses - both large and small. National firms use the information we provide to decide where to locate a factory, store or office. Local businesses use the data to develop their marketing and sales strategies and evaluate expansion opportunities. Facts and figures from the Economic Census provide the foundation for start-up businesses developing business plans.  New questions in the 2007 Economic Census helped measure the effect fringe benefits have on how American companies do business. These costs include health insurance, pension plans, and other benefits.

The Economic Census presents statistics for the Nation, States, metropolitan areas, counties, places, and ZIP Codes, and since 2007 Census Designated Places (CDPs) with 5,000 or more inhabitants or 5,000 or more workers.  Coverage varies from sector to sector.  The greatest variety of statistics and the most detailed classifications usually are published at the national level. There are fewer statistics and less detailed classifications for States, and fewer still for smaller areas, to avoid disclosing information about individual firms.


Data Availability

Current (2012)

Online American FactFinder

Online Economic Census - 2012 Economic Census Release Schedule Links to published reports by industry or state.

Previous (2007)

Online American Factfinder

Online Economic Census - Historical Data

Online Publications - Economic Census Offers links to various tables, downloadable files, etc.

Historic (1820 - 2002)

Online American Factfinder Data for 2002 only.

Online Economic Census - Historical Data

Online Historical Census Browser. (University of Virginia. University of Virginia Library) Limited searching for the category - Economy/Manufacturing/Employment for 1820-1940.

Online Publications - Economic Census. Offers links to various tables, downloadable files, etc.

Online HathiTrust.  Offers selected early Census of Manufactures.

Economic Census CD-ROMs - Check catalog under the “Books and More” tab for OSU Libraries' specific holdings and status.  [Please note CD-ROMs may not be compatible with current operating systems]

Printed Reports - Check catalog under the “Books and More” tab for OSU Libraries' specific holdings and status

Print copies (-1987)   Search catalog under the “Books and More” tab by keyword "Census and Sector"


Bureau of Labor Statistics (United States Department of Labor) 
Compiles and disseminates statistics relating to labor, unemployment, etc.

Center for Economic Studies (CES). (U.S. Department of Commerce. Bureau of the Census) Conducts research in economics and other social sciences, and creates ne public-use data from existing data.

County Business Patterns.  Annual series that provides subnational economic data by industry.

Foreign Trade Statistics.  Official source for U.S. export and import statistics, etc.

Geographical Area Series.  Provides detailed industry statistics by geographic area for establishments of firms with paid employees..

Industrial Series.  Provides detailed industry statistics at the U.S. level for establishments of firms with paid employees.

Non-employer Statistics.  Annual series that provides subnational economic data for businesses that have no paid employees and are subject to federal income tax.

Reports/Research – Ohio Business Structure.   (Ohio Development Services Agency)  Ohio based data.

Reports/Research – Industry Series.   (Ohio Development Services Agency)  Ohio based data and reports.

Subject and Summary Series.  Summary data by industry and other special topics. These summarizations supersede the information released in the Industry and/or Geographic Area Series.

The United States Economic Census. (Princeton University. Princeton University Library) Listing of Economic Census derived reports, etc.  Some are digitized.   Check OSUL’s catalog for local availability.


Further Reading

Census Information:  Economic Census. (Portland State University. Portland State University Library)

Economic Census. (State University of New York. University at Buffalo. University of Buffalo Libraries)

Government Information – Economic Census. (Georgia Tech.  Georgia Tech Libraries)

NAICS-SIC Cross-Reference. (Careeronestop)  Table provides conversion information for SIC to NAICS codes, and vis-a-versa.  Includes links to Industry Profile information  for NAICS listings.

North American Industry Classification System. (U.S. Department of Commerce. Bureau of the Census) Contains links to conversion tables for SIC, NAICS, and ISIC.   Also can search by NAICS 2-6 digit code and get further information relating to that code.