Frequently Asked Questions

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County Business Patterns: Why do letters appear in some of the columns instead of numbers?

The Census Bureau uses disclosure symbols to replace data that is suppressed to protect the confidentiality and the integrity of the published data. For example, when data does not meet publication standards, the value is replaced with an ‘S’. When data could potentially identify an individual business, the value is replaced with a ‘D’. In cases where employment data are suppressed, a range of the number of employees is shown instead. Employment flags for these ranges are represented by the letters 'a' through 'm'.  Refer to the CBP Definitions webpage for a complete list of the employment flag values.

Also, since 2007, all CBP data have been published using the Noise Infusion Method, which applies an associated noise flag that indicates whether a cell has low or medium Noise relative to other data cells. Refer to the CBP How the Data are Collected webpage for an explanation of the Noise Infusion Method used to protect published data.

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