Most people know that the U.S. Census Bureau measures the nation’s population once every 10 years. But fewer know that every five years, it conducts another important survey that measures the nation’s businesses to give us a comprehensive measure of U.S. economic activity across more than 21,000 geographic areas.

Letters for the 2022 Economic Census are scheduled to be mailed this week. The letters will explain how business respondents can fill out the 2022 Economic Census questionnaires online.

The 2022 Economic Census is conducted in 2023 but is based on 2022 data.

The economic census serves as the cornerstone of the nation’s economic statistics and the information it collects helps shape decisions that affect the health of the economy.

Responses from over 4 million business locations will provide data that paints a more complete picture of U.S. businesses at the national, state and local level.

The statistics it collects will cover 19 economic sectors that encompass 950 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) industries. Businesses asked to participate should respond by March 15, 2023.

Who Will Receive the 2022 Economic Census?

The economic census does not go to every business. Data from the more than 8 million employer business locations are represented in the economic census, but to reduce burden on the business community, not every business is contacted.

Approximately 4 million business locations will be asked to respond. For the remaining 4 million small businesses, administrative records are used in lieu of direct reporting.

The Economic Census only goes to employer businesses that have paid employees. There is a separate program of Nonemployer Statistics for data on businesses without employees — like independent contractors or the self-employed.

Also, some industries are excluded from the economic census because that data is collected from other federal agencies — agriculture and education, for example.

Cornerstone of Economic Statistics

The economic census serves as the cornerstone of the nation’s economic statistics and the information it collects helps shape decisions that affect the health of the economy.

It provides source data for the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), national income and products accounts (NIPAs), the producer price index (PPI), and other key indicators of economic performance.

Economic census totals also serve as benchmarks to keep our other surveys accurate. The economic surveys and programs conducted by the Census Bureau are the source of official statistics and the foundation of our national accounts fueled by the data provided by businesses and government.

At the top of the pyramid are our new high-frequency surveys that are released in biweekly phases, such as the Business Trends and Outlook Survey (previously Small Business Pulse Survey) and Business Formation Statistics.

Next, we have monthly and quarterly surveys, which have a small sample size, but provide some of the timeliest data. They provide a snapshot of the economy in a wide range of sectors, such as Monthly Retail TradeConstruction Spending and Quarterly Services Survey.

Then we have the annual surveys that have larger samples and provide some of the most up-to-date detailed trend data available. Examples include the Annual Survey of Manufactures and Annual Business Survey.

Economic Programs Build Upon Each Other

Lastly, we collect the economic census every five years, which provides the most comprehensive data available.

The administrative data in our Business Register that we use to supplement or produce economic statistics are the foundation of all these surveys.

The economic census is also used to update the Business Register a