September 2002

Anticipating the 2002 Economic Census

The Economic Census profiles the U.S. economy every five years, from the national to the local level. The census provides official measures of output for industries and geographic areas, and economic policymakers in federal, state, and local governments use the data to project trends, plan for development, and assess the impact of trade and corporate restructuring on particular industries. Economic Census data also help build the foundation for economic indicators and other statistics.

The Economic Census provides detailed information about the nation’s economic activity for all geographic areas. Census data about industries, their inputs and outputs, and how they relate to each other, are available nowhere else. The Economic Census also provides key elements to help update economic indicators like the gross domestic product and producer price index.

Companies can use Economic Census data to study their industries, look for business markets, and evaluate investment opportunities. Economic Census data help businesses compare industries and locations, and provide the official information that many investors expect in a business plan.

The Census Bureau sends Economic Census forms to all but the smallest businesses in every industry across the United States. Most businesses with five or more paid employees, and a sampling of smaller ones, receive a census form. 2002 Economic Census forms will be sent to 5 million businesses in December, asking for information about business activity during calendar year 2002. Forms will be due back February 12, 2003, and results will be published during 2004 and 2005.

There will be more than 600 different versions of the census form, each tailored to a specific industry or group of industries. The current forms and sample forms used in the 1997 economic census will be available online, but the Bureau notes that industry groupings, product categories, and some questions have changed.

The 2002 Economic Census implements a number of changes to make the data more relevant, reduce business reporting burden, and make resulting data products more useful.

The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) is the new structure for classifying business activity, replacing the old Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system. NAICS provides first-ever comparability with industry data for Canada and Mexico, and provides a framework for the business statistics of the future.

NAICS was introduced with the 1997 Economic Census. Revisions for 2002 include new industries in construction and wholesale trade, parts of the information sector, and parts of the retail trade sector. The 2002 Economic Census does not cover the following industries: farming, forestry, fisheries, and agricultural services; schools and colleges; and labor, political, and religious organizations.

The North American Product Classification System (NAPCS), new for the 2002 census, affects product categories involved in questionnaires for selected service sectors. Like NAICS, the NAPCS will provide for consistent classifications between the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

The first census results will be available in early 2004, with an early release of totals for all economic sectors. All results will be issued on the Internet and on CD-ROM over the following two years.

The census law (Title 13 of the U.S. Code) protects the confidentiality of the individual responses, and the Census Bureau does not cross-reference or share confidential information with regulatory or other agencies. Census forms are even exempt from the Freedom of Information Act.

More information is available online at

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