Frequently Asked Questions

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FAQ

By Group Service Sector Statistics


What is the difference between establishment and firm? What about companies?
These are terms used in our economic census and survey activities. ... (more)

What is included in payroll?
This item includes the gross earnings of all employees paid during the calendar year (cash basis). It includes all fo... (more)

What is sampling variability and how do I interpret it?
Because estimates are based on a sample rather than the entire population, the published estimates may differ from th... (more)

How can I find totals for all industries for a geographic area?
Go to American FactFinder... (more)

Is this survey mandatory?
Yes. Your response is required by law. Title 13 of the U.S. Code requires businesses and other organizations that rec... (more)

 I watch the economy closely. Where can I find the release dates for the official economic indicators?
 The Census Bureau issues a number of economic indicator reports that economists and policymakers watch to monit... (more)

How can I get concentration ratios?
Concentration ratios of ... (more)

How can I find out the number of busineses for various geographic areas or industries?
You can find the number of business establishments by consulting these Census Bureau sources: ... (more)

Why do you revise seasonal factors?
There are two reasons that we revise seasonal factors:We revise factors when we revise the unadjusted data to ... (more)

How did you get my Employer Identification Number (EIN)?
We obtain a list of EINs regularly from other government agencies that have this information (e.g., the Soc... (more)

What are fringe benefits?
Expenditures made by the employer for legally required and voluntary fringe benefit programs for employees. Legally r... (more)

What is included in total operating expenses?
This item represents the sum of detailed types of expenses presented in the published table.  This item exc... (more)

How is the seasonal adjustment derived?
We use a computer program called X-12-ARIMA to derive our seasonal adjustment and produce seasonal factors.It... (more)

What is the Service Annual Survey?
The Service Annual Survey (SAS) provides data that help to measure America's current economic performance. Using a sa... (more)

What is NAICS (North American Industry Classification System)?
NAICS is used to classify a business location's primary activity. NAICS replaced the Standard Industrial Cl... (more)

What sources are available to update the 2002 Economic Census?
The Business and Industry page links to a number of annual, ... (more)

What is the difference between adjusted and not adjusted estimates?
The unadjusted estimates are Horvitz-Thompson estimates. In other words, they are computed by summing weighted data (... (more)

Why do we use our annual surveys and censuses as benchmarks?
Participation in the economic census and the annual survey are required by law, therefore response rates are higher t... (more)

Are retailers willing and able to provide their e-commerce sales values?
Yes. The retailers in the survey are very cooperative and in most cases are able to provide the dollar volume of thei... (more)

Does the Census Bureau make any adjustments to its monthly retail estimates to account for leap year?
Yes. The Census Bureau's seasonal adjustment software, X-12 ARIMA, handles leap year as part of the trading-day adjus... (more)

Do you have 2002 Economic Census data available for the Island Areas?
2002 Economic Census of Island Areas: Puerto Rico Constructi... (more)

Are e-commerce sales estimated for trade areas other than retail?
Yes. Using its annual surveys, the Census Bureau produces estimates of e-commerce activity for manufacturing; wholesa... (more)

When is a mail-order purchase included as a sale?
Mail-order sales are included at the time of purchase, regardless of the delivery date.For more information, v... (more)

Do the Monthly and Annual Wholesale Trade programs share data and company information?
All merchant wholesalers, excluding manufacturers' sales branches and offices, that are in the monthly survey are als... (more)

Are e-commerce sales included in current monthly and annual retail sales estimates?
Yes. In addition, we are separately estimating e-commerce sales.For more information, visit the ... (more)

Does the Census Bureau publish data for number of retail establishments?
No.  The Advance Monthly Sales for Retail Trade and Food Services Survey, Monthly Retail Trade and Food Ser... (more)

How was I selected for the survey?
Your firm was chosen from a scientifically selected sample of businesses. Taking a ... (more)

I'm a very small business. Why do you want information from me?
Taken together, small businesses have a real impact on the economy. Your firm was... (more)

How are e-commerce sales data obtained from the firms in the monthly and annual surveys?
Firms are asked to report e-commerce sales on the same questionnaire used to collect total retail sales.For mo... (more)

What is the seasonal adjustment process?
The mechanics of seasonal adjustment involve breaking down a series into trend-cycle, seasonal, and irregular compone... (more)

What is X-12-ARIMA?
X-12-ARIMA is a seasonal adjustment program developed at the U.S. Census Bureau. The program is based on the Bureau's... (more)

What are e-commerce sales?
E-commerce sales are sales of goods and services over the Internet, an extranet, Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), o... (more)

What is the Advance Monthly Retail Trade Survey sample revision?
The Census Bureau periodically redesigns and reselects the samples for its business surveys to reflect the results of... (more)

How can I obtain the published data?
Last year's Service Annual Survey results are posted on the ... (more)

How do the monthly and annual surveys account for firms that go out of business?
We drop firms from the monthly survey once we receive notification that a firm has ceased operation. The survey is up... (more)

What is the Commodity Flow Survey?
The most current data 2007 Commodity Flo... (more)

Are you planning to release an advance estimate of retail e-commerce sales?
No. The sample used to provide an advance estimate of change in total monthly retail sales is not of adequate size to... (more)

When were monthly sales and inventory estimates from the new Monthly Retail Trade Survey sample released?
The initial estimates from the new sample were released on December 13, 2006, and presented data for the October 2006... (more)

Why do you need to know if I own other companies or if another company owns my firm?
We do not want to duplicate data if you are affiliated with other companies that ... (more)

If I need another copy of the questionnaire(s), how can I obtain one?
Call our National Processing Center on 1-800-772-7851 weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to ... (more)

In the original (unadjusted) series, this year's April value is larger than the March value. But the season...
This difference in direction can happen only when the seasonal factor for April is larger than the seasonal factor fo... (more)

Does the Census Bureau have Monthly Retail Trade Survey estimates of sales and inventories for the affected...
No. We cannot separately quantify the impact on the affected areas because the MRTS is designed to estimate for sales... (more)

Are estimates acceptable?
Yes, carefully prepared estimates are acceptable if book figures are not readily ... (more)

Do you have an estimate of the impact on retail sales in New York?
No. Our sample is only designed to produce a national estimate.For more information, visit the ... (more)

How are businesses selected for the monthly and annual surveys?
Businesses are categorized by their industrial activity and size. Within each of these groups, the Census Bureau sele... (more)

Are sales at electronic auctions included in the e-commerce estimate?
Electronic auctions directed at individual consumers are classified as retail trade. However, commissions and fees, n... (more)

Why can't I get the annual total by summing the seasonally adjusted monthly values or by summing the annual...
When seasonal adjustment is done by dividing the time series by seasonal factors (or combined seasonal-trading day-ho... (more)

Will the name of my business be kept confidential?
Yes. Names of companies are never used. All data are summarized in statistical form only by industry and pr... (more)

I report data in the Quarterly Services Survey? Why can't you sum up the data?
The Service Annual Survey collects additional data not included on the Quarterly Services Survey, including... (more)

Do you have data on cellular and other wireless communications?
Yes, you have several options to consult. These industries are classified under the following  ... (more)

Does the Census Bureau publish data for individual commodities?
Some data by commodity are available in the Merchandise Line Sales report available in Census years. Data are availab... (more)

What was the impact of altering the seasonal adjustment option (additive outlier adjustment) for the July 2...
The impacted industry group showed an increase from June. If the July value had been treated as typical, the program ... (more)

What was the impact of altering the seasonal adjustment option for the September and October 2001 data months?
The option ensured that the magnitudes and directions of the seasonal adjustments of September, October, and surround... (more)

How do the Monthly Wholesale Historic Release files differ from the Monthly Wholesale Historic Time Series ...
The historic release files are the reports as they were originally released.  No data updates are made over... (more)

Do the e-commerce estimates include non-employer businesses?
Yes. Non-employer firms are not included in the sample. However, to account for e-commerce sales by non-employer firm... (more)

Do you have plans to release data monthly?
No. The quarterly estimates appear to be meeting user needs.For more information, visit the ... (more)

How does the Monthly Retail Trade Survey account for businesses affected by Hurricane Katrina?
Large companies with multiple locations are asked to report total U. S. sales and inventories for all retail location... (more)

How are gift certificates treated?
Following generally accepted accounting principles, sales from gift certificates are included in the retail sales of ... (more)

How do I know that no one else can access the data from your computer?
Data maintained in the Census Bureau's computer system is not accessible to personnel outside the Census Bu... (more)

How did you represent the August and September 2005 end-of-month inventories for Monthly Retail Trade Surve...
Companies report inventories based on their financial records. Any adjustments to reflect the effects of the hurrican... (more)

What activities has the Census Bureau planned to ensure the affected areas will continue to be accurately r...
During our data collection, we will continue to ask questions that will help us monitor impacts from the affected are... (more)

Why aren't the Latest Wholesale Reports for the current month or current year?
The collection of monthly data doesn't begin until the month ends.  While companies are requested to provid... (more)

Has the reliability of the Advance Monthly Retail Trade and Food Services Survey sales estimate changed bec...
No, the reliability has not changed substantially. At the national level, reported sales exhibited variation similar ... (more)

I've returned my form. Why have I received another just like it?
We send follow-up letters and forms when the deadline passes. Your returned form an... (more)

How are the estimates benchmarked? 
We benchmark the estimates in two stages. When the latest Economic Census becomes available we benchmark to set the a... (more)

How was the survey value for a kind of business determined to be out of the ordinary?
Each month, independent indications of how each kind of business performed are researched as part of our normal revie... (more)

Can I be paid for completing the survey?
No. The law authorizing this survey (Title 13, U.S. Code) does not authorize fund... (more)

Could the Census Bureau have overstated the decline?
The alteration affected the adjustments of only those kinds of business that had untypical results based on well-esta... (more)

Why do you seasonally adjust data?
Seasonal movements are often large enough that they mask other characteristics of the data that are of interest to an... (more)

Was the Census Bureau able to collect information from Advance Monthly Retail Trade and Food Services Surve...
Yes. In Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, 92 firms responded with sales data. Over the previous six months, we rec... (more)

About how long will it take to complete this form?
Estimated time for completing the forms is indicated on the report form. ... (more)

How are returns of merchandise treated?
Firms are instructed to report sales net of returned merchandise. For more information, visit the ... (more)

Did the Census Bureau change its Monthly Retail Trade Survey data collection procedures for August and Sept...
Yes. Our data collection staff asked additional questions with regard to the impact of Hurricane Katrina on sales and... (more)

Did the Census Bureau change its Advance Monthly Retail Trade and Food Services Survey analytical procedure...
Yes. In addition to the usual analysis done every month, we reviewed independent data sources, discussed the effects ... (more)

What is the Monthly Retail Trade Survey sample revision?
The Census Bureau periodically redesigns and reselects the samples for its business surveys to reflect the results of... (more)

Why are the monthly retail estimates revised?
The monthly retail sales and inventory estimates are benchmarked each year to reflect the results from the latest Ann... (more)

Why don't the automotive sales agree with the automotive units published by the Automobile Manufacturers As...
The automotive sales data includes sales of other items not included in the automotive units information such as used... (more)

Could the Census Bureau have overstated the increase?
The alteration affected the adjustment that had atypical results based on well-established statistical criteria. Its ... (more)

What types of businesses are considered wholesale?
The classification of wholesale is derived from the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). For more i... (more)

Are sales of adult material included in the retail e-commerce estimates?
Sales from businesses primarily selling goods of any kind are included while businesses primarily providing services ... (more)

Are my responses confidential?
Your responses are completely confidential under Title 13, United States Code, and are seen only by persons s... (more)

What determines the size of the annual revisions? 
The size of the revision for the unadjusted estimates is based on revisions between the results of the most recent An... (more)

Are sales taxes included in published sales estimates?
No.  Respondents are instructed to exclude sales taxes in their reported monthly and annual sales. &nb... (more)

Why was the e-commerce sales estimate for the prior quarter revised?
The e-commerce sales estimate for the prior quarter was revised to reflect additional response data. For more... (more)

How are seasonally adjusted estimates derived?
We used quarterly e-commerce sales estimates for 4th quarter 1999 through the current quarter as input to the X-12 AR... (more)

What indicates a good quality seasonal adjustment?
No residual seasonal effect. Once we adjust the series for seasonality, there should be no remaining seasona... (more)

Did the Census Bureau alter the Monthly Retail Trade Survey seasonal adjustment options for August and Sept...
No. The review of the seasonal adjustment output and diagnostics did not indicate that adjustments to the options wer... (more)

When will estimates from the new Advance Monthly Retail Trade Survey sample be released?
The initial estimates from the new sample are scheduled for release on December 13, 2006, and will present data for t... (more)

Was the option that was altered developed specifically to handle the impact of the terrorist attacks?
No. This option is used as a part of standard seasonal adjustment procedures at the Census Bureau but with a more con... (more)

Why don't you get the information you need from the IRS?
The Census Bureau uses IRS administrative data whenever possible. However, the IRS data does not provide the ... (more)

What are trading day effects and trading day adjustments?
Monthly (or quarterly) time series that are totals of daily activities can be influenced by each calendar month's wee... (more)

Why are the 1997 estimates different than the 1997 Economic Census data for some industries? 
Because of the implementation of the new classification rules in the 2002 Economic Census, some companies that were c... (more)

When were e-commerce estimates from the new Monthly Retail Trade Survey sample released?
The initial e-commerce estimates from the new sample were released on February 16, 2007, and presented data for the 4... (more)

How often is the Advance Monthly Retail Trade Survey sample revised?
The sample is revised approximately every two and a half years. For more information, visit the ... (more)

How was the survey value for a kind of business determined to be out of the ordinary?
Each month, independent indications of how each kind of business performed are researched as part of our normal revie... (more)

Was the Census Bureau able to collect information from Monthly Retail Trade Survey respondents operating wi...
Yes. We mailed sales questionnaires to 284 firms in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.  234 firms were ab... (more)

Did the Census Bureau alter the Advance Monthly Retail Trade and Food Services Survey seasonal adjustment o...
No. The review of the seasonal adjustment output and diagnostics did not indicate that adjustments to the options wer... (more)

Was the option that was altered developed specifically to handle the impact of the automobile incentives?
No. This option is used as a part of standard seasonal adjustment procedures at the Census Bureau but with a more con... (more)

How many kinds of business did the alteration affect?
The alteration affected kinds of business accounting for 60 percent of total retail sales for September and 9 percent... (more)

Can the Census Bureau produce Advance Monthly Retail Trade and Food Services Survey sales estimates for the...
No. We cannot separately estimate retail sales for the affected areas since the MARTS sample is designed to estimate ... (more)