In December, the U.S. Census Bureau mailed forms to businesses for its Economic Census — a tally of businesses taken every five years that produces a snapshot of business activities in industries and communities across the country.
“Economic Census forms have been sent to nearly 5 million businesses in every sector, including 200,000 manufacturers,” said Bob Marske with the Census Bureau. “The census covers businesses of all sizes in all industries and provides a comprehensive portrait of the private, nonfarm economy.”
The Census Bureau says companies can use the information for a variety of purposes:
- To improve profitability and efficiency
- Better understand markets
- Gauge competition
- Evaluate locations
- Seek financing
Business organization can use it to assess industry growth and change and prepare economic forecasts. Program agencies and statistical agencies can use the information to evaluate programs and update performance measures.
“The census defines reference values for industries at the national and local level,” Marske added.
The Economic Census is also used to ensure the accuracy of reports on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), retail sales and the Producer Price Index.
“In today’s changing economy, timely and relevant facts and figures are essential for sound business and government decision making,” according to a Census Bureau statement. “The Economic Census is the primary benchmark for measuring 96 percent of the gross domestic product.”
Businesses can use the information when deciding on sites for factories or offices, or when planning expansions.
If you received the form, you are required to send it back by the due date, February 12.
“Mandating a response is an indication of the importance Congress places on complete and accurate reporting,” Marske noted.
You can return the forms by mail or online. If you anticipate a problem meeting the deadline, you are urged to notify the Census Bureau as soon as possible to go over your options. If you need assistance, go to http://www.census.gov/econhelp or call 1-800-233-6136.
You can use your computer to answer the census, request an extension, or get help. Information submitted online is encrypted for your protection. For more on responding online, check the Electronic Reporting page.
Your information will be kept safe. It has restricted access, and those who view it can only use it for statistical purposes, not to disclose anything to a third party or use it for any other purpose. If someone violates confidentiality, they could face fines up to $5,000, or five years in prison, or both.
Although your individual information will be kept confidential, the Census Bureau will put the results of the Economic Census on the Internet where it will be available to businesses and to the public for free. The information that is made available is based on a collection of several businesses and does not identify any of those businesses or their operations.
The Census form covers basic information, including location, employment, payroll, and sales by type of product or service.
Under United States Code, Title 13, the Census Bureau is required to complete the Economic Census for 2007. The 2007 results include improved measure of service sector products, supply chain and franchising.
The United States Code, Title 13, also requires company managers, business owners and employees to complete the census forms and authorizes penalties for those who do not comply. It also prohibits compensation and exemptions. The penalties include fines of up to $500 per form for refusal to answer, and up to $10,000 for providing false information.
The Census Bureau sent businesses one form for each of its business locations. If the business owner or manager fails to respond or obtain an extension by February 12, replacement forms will be mailed by the Census Bureau.
If you didn’t receive any forms, then you are not responsible to complete anything. The forms may have been sent to a different branch of your business, you may be a new business that is ineligible for the 2007 census, or you have too few employees.
If privacy is a concern, you can check the legitimacy of the census documents by comparing them to sample forms available on the Census Bureau Web site, checking for the correct return address, an official survey code, or the Census Bureau seal and form number.
To view the results of the 2002 census, click here. (http://www.census.gov/econ/census02)
For information on the economic statistics programs that use the census data, visit http://www.census.gov/business. An advanced report on the 2007 census will be available around March 2009.
The Census Bureau has also launched a Web site, http://business.census.gov, which includes industry snapshots for every industry with past census information. They also include ratios such as employees per establishment and revenues per dollar of payroll that business can use to compare their performance to industry norms.
“The census provides accurate information about what is going on in the industry, and that’s more important now than ever,” Marske added. “It helps us (and the businesses) know what is happening at the national and local levels.”
Remember, the deadline to submit your forms is rapidly approaching. Returning the forms will help you avoid a penalty now, but the information gathered by the census will benefit you in the long run.