Bloomberg Tax
March 22, 2023, 6:34 PM

Economic Census, Other Surveys Provide Payroll Statistics

Jamie Rathjen
Jamie Rathjen

The US Census Bureau’s economic surveys include data from payroll service providers as well as general payroll data from businesses participating in the surveys, a bureau official said March 21.

The bureau’s Economic Census is done every five years, and the 2022 census based on employers’ year-end data from 2022 is in progress, according to Charles Brady, the branch chief of the Respondent Outreach and Promotion Branch of the Bureau’s Economic Management Division. Responses were due March 15, he said.

The Economic Census represents “the most comprehensive economic data available,” and responses from participants are legally required, Brady said. Even though the survey is online, a letter was mailed to participants Jan. 31 with an authentication code to access the survey. Participants must set up an account in the bureau’s Respondent Portal, Brady said.

Brady spoke at the American Payroll Association’s Capital Summit in Arlington, Virginia.

Most businesses do not participate in the census; only businesses with employees participate, which eliminates about 22 million of the 30 million US businesses, Brady said. About 4 million of the remaining 8 million must participate, and larger businesses are more likely to have to respond, he said.

Besides asking for physical locations, EINs, and primary business activities, respondents must also provide data on sales, receipts, revenue, and employment and payroll data, Brady said. The census also asks industry-specific questions: for example, it asks restaurants which of eight basic kinds of menu they have, he said.

Payroll-related data asked for includes annual and first-quarter payrolls, as well as how many employees a business has, Brady said.

The census also includes information in Spanish and from US territories, Brady said. The bureau refers to US territories collectively as “Island Areas.”

The first release of 2022 Economic Census data is planned for early 2024, Brady said. Economic data from all Census business surveys is freely available at, he said.

Another bureau survey that asks for payroll data is the County Business Patterns survey, which uses employers’ physical locations to provide subnational economic data, Brady said.

CBP data can be broken down by state or county or by even smaller divisions such as ZIP codes or Census-desginated places. The CBP is released for every year, but the most recent year for which full data is available is 2020. The bureau has released preliminary data for 2021.

The less-frequent bureau surveys have larger sample sizes, Brady said.

The payroll services industry has its own classification in the NAICS system and includes businesses, besides CPA offices, that collect data including hours worked, pay rates, deductions, and other payroll-related data from clients and use it to generate paychecks, reports, and tax filings, Brady said.

Bureau surveys that include data from the payroll services industry are the Economic Census; County Business Patterns; Nonemployer Statistics, which uses data from federal tax filings to provide information on businesses without employees; and the Annual Business Survey, an annual survey of employers, Brady said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jamie Rathjen in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: William Dunn at

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