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I Just Filled Out the Census Bureau Survey that Wolf Street Corp Got for the “2022 Economic Census”: Here’s what it was Like



Completing the survey is “required by law.” Four million businesses with employees received it, including Wolf Street Corp.

By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

On January 30, the Wolf Street media mogul empire, of which I’m the head honcho, received notice in the corporate email from the Census Bureau that the survey for the 2022 Economic Census would go out to 4 million business locations in the US that have employees. The Economic Census is done every five years, unlike the population census which is done every 10 years.

A snail-mail letter followed with the authentication code to set up a “Respondent Portal Account” on the website, where the survey would have to be completed. March 15 is the deadline.

Completing the survey is “required by law.” And if you look a little deeper, you can find out what the penalty might be if you get caught not completing it or submitting false information. No, it’s not the firing squad.

So I just got through completing the survey online. In our comments, there has been a flood of questions over the years about Census Bureau surveys. At Wolf Street, we constantly discuss business and economic data. Data and the quality of data are important for us. So I’m going to share how the 2022 Economic Census worked in my case. So here we go.

First, some general stuff about the Economic Census.

What is the penalty for not responding? The Census Bureau explains: “The census law (Title 13, United States Code, Section 224), coupled with the Sentencing Reform Act of 1984 (Title 18, Sections 3551, 3559, and 3571), allow for possible prosecution of responsible officials and provides for penalties of up to $5,000 for failure to report (and a response is still required), and $10,000 for intentionally providing false information.” So not exactly the firing squad. Not even a year in the hoosegow.

Why is it important? The Census Bureau explains: “The Economic Census is the official five-year measure of American business and the economy. Data provided by businesses fuels the most comprehensive economic statistics available, representing all U.S. industries and geographies.” the Census Bureau explained.

“Responses from over 4 million business locations will provide data that paints a more complete picture of U.S. businesses at the national, state and local level. The statistics it collects will cover 19 economic sectors that encompass 950 North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) industries,” the Census Bureau said.

Who got the survey? Census explains: “Data from the more than 8 million employer business locations are represented in the economic census, but to reduce burden on the business community, not every business is contacted. Approximately 4 million business locations will be asked to respond [including Wolf Street Corp].

“For the remaining 4 million small businesses, administrative records are used in lieu of direct reporting.

“The Economic Census only goes to employer businesses that have paid employees. There is a separate program of Nonemployer Statistics for data on businesses without employees — like independent contractors or the self-employed.

“Also, some industries are excluded from the economic census because that data is collected from other federal agencies — agriculture and education, for example.”

What is the Economic Census? Census: “The Economic Census is the U.S. Government’s official five-year measure of American business and the economy. It provides the most comprehensive data available at the national, state, and local level, representing most industries and geographic areas of the United States and Island Areas.

“The Economic Census serves as the statistical benchmark for current economic activity by informing the Gross Domestic Product and the Producer Price Index. It provides information on business locations, the workforce, and trillions of dollars of sales by product and service type.”

Since when? Census: “Congress commissioned the first measure of economic activity during the Census of 1810, which was called, the ‘Census of Manufactures.’ Over time, as the nation’s economy grew more diverse, additional questions were added to form the current Economic Census in 1930.”

When will we see the results? You gotta be patient. Census: “The first 2022 Economic Census data are scheduled to be published in March 2024 when the ‘First Look’ statistics will provide preliminary totals for all economic sectors. Geographic area statistics are scheduled for release in March 2025, and the remainder of the releases by March 2026.”

The Survey.

After the multi-step process of setting up the “Respondent Portal Account” at, validating the email address, etc., and then signing into the newly set-up account, and adding the authentication code that was mailed out via snail mail, we’re good to go.

The survey is based on the info filed with the federal Employer Identification Number (EIN), which is to businesses what the Social Security number is to individuals. So the survey form was essentially pre-filled in terms of the name of the business, the EIN, the address, the head honcho (me), the email, phone number, etc., and I just needed to confirm it.

Now, I’m greeted with: “Welcome to the 2022 Economic Census.” And so begin the questions:

  • Is your company owned or controlled by another domestic company?
  • Number of locations in operation at the end of 2022 under this EIN?
  • Which best describes this establishment’s operational status at the end of 2022? (Multiple choice answer, in my case, “In operation”)
  • Number of months in operation during 2022?
  • Which ONE of the following best describes this establishment’s primary kind of business or activity in 2022? (Plus a couple of follow-up questions).

Then I had to provide basic operational details: Total revenues, number of employees, amount of payroll, details of sales and shipments (multiple choice), sales of services to foreign businesses (exports of services), and purchases of services from foreign businesses (imports of services).

And then these questions on “Business Technologies”:

  • “Did this establishment use touchscreens/kiosks for customer interface in its own operations in 2022?
  • “Did this establishment use additive manufacturing (e.g., 3D printing) in its own operations in 2022?
  • “Did this establishment use radio-frequency identification (RFID) in its own operations in 2022?
  • “Did this establishment use industrial robots in its own operations in 2022
  • “Did this establishment use automated guided vehicles (AGV) or autonomous mobile robots (AMR) in its own operations in 2022?

There was sort of an essay question, in 1,000 characters or less, where, if I wanted to, I could “Enter any explanations that may be essential in understanding your reported data.”

And that was it. All that was left to do was review a PDF with the survey questions and my responses, fix any errors, and finally submit the survey.

Overall, the online survey was easy and fairly quick to deal with. Obviously, the Wolf Street media mogul empire is a small simple company, so there weren’t a lot of complexities and nuances to deal with. Like with the prior Census surveys I had received, I was pleased with how easy and intuitive the website was to use.

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