Measuring Our Economy—200 Years and Still Counting

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Written by: John H. Thompson

More than 200 years ago, we began collecting information about America’s economy, providing the first foundation for the detailed portrait we have today.

Today, we continue this long tradition by releasing the first results from the 2012 Economic Census. A precursor to the modern-day Economic Census was initiated for the 1810 Census when Congress approved a bill requiring the collection of information on manufacturing establishments.

Since before the first population Census in 1790, James Madison proposed asking about agricultural, commercial and manufacturing data, saying “If the plan was pursued in taking every future census, it would give them an opportunity of marking the progress of the society, and distinguishing the growth of every interest.”

Taken every five years, the Economic Census provides statistics that are the cornerstone of measuring the U.S. economy, covering more than 1,000 industries. The Economic Census gives us a detailed measure of America’s businesses and economy, producing nearly all of the key source data use to calculate GDP. These results provide the first comprehensive look at the economy since the recession.

For the business owners that provided this information to us, we offer a sincere thank you for helping us to measure the health of America’s economy through consistent, comparable and comprehensive statistics.

The first preliminary results reveal, for example, the extraordinary growth of the mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction sector: the number of establishments in this sector rose by 26.2 percent between 2007 and 2012. This growth has also been reflected repeatedly in our population estimates in recent years, showing rapid growth in places like North Dakota and Texas, which are rich in these resources.

We also see trends in other economic sectors. Health care remains a topic of conversation in the U.S. and the Economic Census findings show the increasing size and scope of this sector. It continued to have the most employees and the highest numerical increase compared to other sectors, up almost 1.8 million in employees from 2007. In 2012, more than 18 million people worked in the health care and social assistance sector with the largest component of that change being ambulatory health care services which includes doctors’ offices.

In addition, the retail trade sector had the most business locations in 2012 (nearly 1.1 million) while the utilities sector had the least (17,804). However, utilities reported the highest annual payroll per employee ($89,470).

When we look at sales, we see the wholesale trade sector reported the highest sales in 2012 (nearly $7.2 trillion) followed by manufacturing (over $5.7 trillion) and retail trade ($4.2 trillion).

The information released today is only a preview of what is to be published over the coming months. More detailed statistics from the Economic Census ─ for states, counties, and cities, and with greater industry detail ─ will tell an ongoing story about America’s economy. Ultimately, every state and community will have an economic profile to assist economic development, planners, businesses and entrepreneurs in creating new opportunities and jobs across the nation.

The economic census provides consistent benchmark data but it also evolves to reflect the emergence of new industries. To that end, for the 2012 Economic Census, for the first time, we will publish statistics on new industries such as the electric power generation industry for solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass. Stay tuned as we continue to tell the story of America’s economy through the 2012 Economic Census results.

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3 Responses to Measuring Our Economy—200 Years and Still Counting

  1. SEF says:

    Are you aware that census takers are actually harassing private citizens and using coercive techniques? They are and not only that they are ACTUALLY proud of it! Last Thursday afternoon it was Maryanne Brown and this EVENINGS guest harasser in Leesburg, Virginia 20176 was Tracey Thrift. Upon informing them BOTH we are not participating they both took on a very glib and provocative tone informing me that the ONLY way to make the Census bureau stop is to take the survey! Otherwise we get to look forward to multiple visits every week for two months! This is unreal! On top of the “I AM the Federal Government” crap (Ms. Brown) she parked illegally and ASKED me if I was okay with her leaving her car in an area CLEARLY marked for residential permits only! SHE EVEN LOOKED AT THE SIGN! I informed them both that I too work for the Federal Government and have for the past 18 years and have had to review privacy law as a regular required part of my job. Whoops! The “I am the Federal Government” approach doesnt go so far when that happens. I called the main office in Philadelphia at 800-262-4236 on Thursday at 16:52 and was told everyone was out of the office. But apparently the field reps can ring door bells at 17:35? IS THIS REALLY the next Government scandal we want? Is there not enough going on with IRS, CIA, NSA, BLM, Harry Reid, DHS, DOJ, Congress, White House, DOD…on and on! I mean is this what we really want now? The Government just really is winging it these days and could give a crap about bullying citizens!? This is crazy and it isnt going to end well. You all need to step up and say enough is enough. Unless you truly dont care either. I would ask you reach out to your regional chiefs and tell them that their field reps need a little training in privacy rights and what constitutes threatening and coercive behavior before somebody writes an op ed piece for The Blaze or Drudge and opens the flood gates for allllll the rest that have to be building up out there. Thank you for your attention to this matter. Presumably that is of course.

  2. Fanning,Ron says:

    Established to count the population every ten years for matters of representation.My has the Census Bureau grown.It has become one of those bloated monsters that has put its hands in every step of American life and livelihood. Now you put out all the illegally and wrongfully gained information to corporations and foreign governments.You have been a disgusting control mechanism a twisted horror of fascism.Through threats of arrest and imprisonment you try to force people to divulge personal,social and economic information through your illegal community surveys.You overpopulate your ranks with self empowered idiots and directors who believe their own lies as they swallow their own poison .i t will happen soon that this communist program will be burned to the ground and rebuilt in the fashion and power it was given in the Constitution and we will be their to watch it happen.

  3. Sam Griffin says:

    My concerns our that with all of our technology why are we still having to wait every 10 years to update our census activity. Hopefully we can get a better at this. I know that us here really would love to have quicker update. To help realtors have a better account of people coming in to our city and establishing a more accurate account of people in our community.

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