A publication of the Indiana Business Research Center at IU's Kelley School of Business
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U.S. Economic Census Catalogs Mountain of Data

The U.S. Department of Commerce recently published new statistics from the 1997 Economic Census. Compiled from more than 5 million response forms, the 1997 Economic Census functions as the primary source for data vital to both the public and private sectors, and illustrates a portrait of the economy every five years, from the national to the local level.

The Economic Census, mandated by federal law to be collected every five years, is a confidential and industry-customized survey that tabulates several key statistics for industry, including the number of establishments, number of employees, payroll and measure of output.

The 1997 Economic Census also marks the premiere of a new business classification system that will be used to measure the U.S. economy in the new century. The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) contains measurements of the 21st-century economy including, for the first time, information and high-tech support services and entertainment sectors, among others.

The most efficient way to obtain the Economic Census data, which is released in stages, is via the Internet, at www.census.gov/econ97. The Census Bureau uses American Factfinder to give information-seekers quick reports with highlights of available data. Users may specify tailored queries and download results to their own computers in a variety of formats. Highlights from the data include:

  • The U.S. information sector, including publishing, motion pictures, broadcasting, telecommunications, information and data processing services, generates 3.1 million jobs, a $129 billion annual payroll and $623 billion in receipts at 114,000 locations.
  • The top five manufacturing subsectors, measured by shipment value, are transportation equipment ($572 billion), computers/electronic products ($438 billion), food ($424 billion), chemicals ($420 billion) and machinery ($270 billion).
  • The computer/electronic manufacturing sector generates 1.7 million jobs, a $73 billion annual payroll and $438 billion in shipments at 17,000 locations.
  • The manufacturing sector employs the most people at 17 million, followed by the retail trade and the health care/social assistance sectors, which each employ 14 million.