News Column

Deadline Nears for US Businesses to Complete Economic Census

January 10, 2013

Staff -- HispanicBusiness

Census Survey



Nearly 4 million U.S. businesses have received requests to complete the 2012 Economic Census survey.

The questionnaire, which is sent to businesses by the U.S. Census Bureau, is the government's official five-year measure of American business and the economy.

As part of the survey, respondents are asked to provide information about "operational and performance data for their companies," the Bureau proclaims on its website, noting that small- and large-business enterprises are required by law to participate in census reporting.

The deadline for completing the forms is Feb. 12, 2013.

The Census Bureau promotes the business survey as an important data-monitoring resource for U.S., state and local chambers of commerce, including crucial Hispanic business chambers throughout the country -- from Miami and Houston to Albuquerque and Los Angeles.

Although critics are quick to fault census-taking as a government device for collecting personal data from private citizens -- and businesses -- the survey has been in existence for the better part of half a century, dating back to the Truman Administration.

"The first census of business, covering retail and wholesale trade, was conducted in 1930, and shortly thereafter was broadened to include some service trades," the Bureau's website explains. "The periodic economic censuses were suspended during World War II in favor of war-oriented surveys. They resumed with the 1947 Census of Manufactures and the 1948 Census of Business."

Diversity Statistics

In 1969, minority-owned businesses were added to the fold of data categories that ostensibly assist the bureau in anticipating future needs of small and large businesses and the demands those enterprises place on federal, state and local resources.

The Survey of Business Owners "presents statistics according to the new federal standard that allows respondents to report more than one race. The survey also gathers expanded characteristics of businesses and their owners, including age and veteran status of the owners and the identification of home-based business and participation in franchising."

Transportation and Commodities

There are numerous legitimate reasons for tracking U.S. business growth, including the transportation needs of employees, who use public highways and commuter rail systems to travel to work each day. Data collected from the surveys presumably enables the federal government to gauge and anticipate a variety of critical infrastructure needs and demands on commodities -- from steel production for bridges to agricultural harvesting of wheat.

The Bureau's website points out, for example, that "the census of transportation began in 1963 as a set of surveys covering travel, transportation of commodities and trucks."

In 1992, the Bureau incorporated additional transportation industries, finance, insurance, real estate, communications, and utilities to its mandatory business survey. The latter category -- utilities -- accounts for "more than 20 percent of U.S. gross domestic product," according to the Census Bureau.

For more information about the Survey of Business Owners, visit "Using Economic Statistics"


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