Frequently Asked Questions

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Survey of Business Owners: Where can I find sales, employment and payroll totals across all industries, not just the sector-by-sector figures shown in the Economic Census?

Three Census Bureau programs provide economy-wide totals at the national and local level; they are listed together with the Economic Census for comparison:

  • The Economic Census profiles the American economy every 5 years and provides detailed information about industries and geographic areas, including number of establishments, employment, payroll, and sales, receipts, or revenue.  The Economic Census covers the 18 sectors that comprise the private, nonfarm economy, but economy-wide totals are not published because the census does not cover the agricultural services that are included in the programs listed below, and because not all sectors are published for all geographic levels (U.S., states, metro areas, counties, and cities).

  • County Business Patterns provides annual figures on the number of establishments, employment, and payroll, by industry.  Relative to the Economic Census, there are modest differences in coverage

  • Nonemployer statistics provide annual information about the millions of businesses without paid employees, which are excluded from most economic census reports.  These reports provide number of businesses and their sales or revenue, for the U.S., states, metro areas, and counties.  Industry detail is somewhat less than is shown in the Economic Census.

  • The Survey of Business Owners (SBO) provides the only comprehensive, regularly collected source of information on selected economic and demographic characteristics for businesses and business owners by gender, ethnicity, race, and veteran status, every 5 years, for years ending in “2” and “7.”  Published data include number of firms (both firms with paid employees and firms with no paid employees), sales and receipts, number of paid employees, and annual payroll; they are presented by kind of business, geographic area, and size of firm (employment and receipts).  Additional demographic and economic characteristics of business owners and their businesses are included, such as owner's age, education level, hours worked, and primary function in the business; family- and home-based businesses; types of customers and workers; sources of financing for start-up, expansion, or capital improvements; outsourcing; use of Internet and e-commerce; and employer-paid benefits.  Because this is a sample survey, it provides much less industry detail than other programs listed here.  The figures do not exactly match Economic Census totals because of slight differences in coverage.  

In addition there are a number of other programs that provide economy-wide data, though not at the local level.  See the Guide to Data Sources for economy-wide programs.

None of the data sets listed above include governments or farming.  See the separate Census of Governments conducted by the Census Bureau and the Census of Agriculture conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


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