Our name, the Census Bureau, suggests to many only the decennial census of the population. However, we have more individual statistical programs measuring the economy than those measuring the population. From the Census Bureau, the country learns the economic health of the manufacturing, retail, and other service sectors. The Census Bureau supplies the country with key import and export data, which measure the relative success of American goods abroad and our consumption of other countries’ products. We track the construction of new homes and how housing starts are changing across the country. We measure the fiscal condition of state and local governments. We inform the country about the annual financial position of US corporations and on capital investment in new and used structures and equipment together with expenses for information and communications technology infrastructure. We measure the volume and change in businesses owned by women and minorities. There are hundreds of separate statistical programs that we run, which in these times of economic hardship, are the key metrics about how we’re doing as an economy.
The data provided by the Census Bureau underlies much about what we know about our economy and our people. For example, the Bureau of Economic Analysis uses the statistics from the economic census to benchmark gross domestic product (GDP) estimates and prepare input-output tables – the fundamental tool for national and regional economic planning. During benchmark years, such as 2012, about 90 percent of the data used in calculating GDP comes from the Census Bureau. The Bureau of Labor Statistics uses Census Bureau statistics to benchmark producer price indexes and prepare productivity statistics. The Federal Reserve Board uses our statistics to prepare indexes of industrial production.
Businesses use our statistics for site location, industry and market analysis, to make investment and production decisions, to gauge competitiveness, and to identify entrepreneurial opportunities. Detailed industry information for small geographic areas permits state and local agencies to forecast economic conditions, plan economic development, transportation, and social services. Watch how the Greater Houston Partnership finds that data from the American Community Survey and uses it to encourage economic development in Houston.
As you can see, the Census Bureau is about much more than just counting the population once a decade. By measuring America’s people, places and our economy, the Census Bureau provides a wealth of information about who we are as a society and where we are going.