Government Public Domain Reports – A Valuable Free Resource: By John LaRosa, Marketdata

Government Public Domain Reports – A Valuable Free Resource: By John LaRosa, Marketdata

One of the best kept secrets that many still don’t know about is the vast amount of data published by the U.S. government agencies. A huge amount of reports and industry statistics are there for the finding–all FREE of charge–if you know where to obtain it.

It’s a fact that the U.S. government is the most prolific publisher of “public domain” information in the world. Public domain simply means that it’s available to view and use however you want, without having to pay anything for it or having to get permission to use it in your documents. It’s not copyrighted. This is a huge advantage.

Some of the agencies that turn out this data, continuously, include: The U.S. Census Bureau (, the Dept. of Commerce, The Bureau of Labor Statistics, The Bureau of Economic Analysis, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission), CDC (Centers for Disease Control), the FBI, and more.

At Marketdata, we’ve been using this data since 1979. And, there are a variety of Census databases to choose from: Census of Manufacturing, Census of Retail Trade, Census of Wholesale Trade, Census of Service Industries, to name a few.

The key to all this data, classified by industry, are the NAICS codes (North American Industrial Classification System). There are 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6-digit codes. The more numbers, the finer the level of detail. NAICS is a 2- through 6-digit hierarchical classification system, offering five levels of detail. Each digit in the code is part of a series of progressively narrower categories, and the more digits in the code signify greater classification detail. The first two digits designate the economic sector, the third digit designates the subsector, the fourth digit designates the industry group, the fifth digit designates the NAICS industry, and the sixth digit designates the national industry

For example, Major Group 56 may includes Administrative and Support and Waste Management and Remediation Services, NAICS code 56142 stands for telephone call centers and 561510 covers travel agencies.

The major census surveys are performed every five years (years ending in a 2 or 7). The last major census was done in 2012, and the 2017 census is now underway. However, there are many other reports that are issued yearly and even monthly.

Trade-off: The major trade-off with government data is timeliness. Census data is voluminous. Therefore, it takes a while to compile it, check it, revise it and issue it online. As a result, you might not be able to get that 2012 industry data until 2015. It usually is issued in parts, with U.S. summary data first, then geographic data for states, then special subject series.

Examples of the kind of statistics one can find:

  • industry receipts (revenues)
  • number of establishments
  • industry payroll
  • number of industry employees
  • product line sales
  • market share by the top 4, 8, 20 and 50 firms
  • operating ratios, by single vs. multi-unit establishments
  • ratios, by receipts size of the firm
  • ratios, by employment size of the firm
  • legal format of firms

All information submitted to the Census Bureau remains anonymous, so no individual company data is disclosed. All companies with payrolls must report their data, by law. Data is aggregated to derive industry averages.

So, how do I use this information?

The uses are endless. You can determine how big your market or industry is in the U.S., how fast it has grown, how many companies and establishments there are, avg. receipts per establishment, payroll costs as a percent of sales, how concentrated the industry is (market share), state and city (metro area) receipts (mkt. potential), employee productivity (sales per employee divided by payroll per employee). These are industry benchmarks you can use to compare your company to the larger industry in which you operate.

Start-ups and entrepreneurs can use these statistics to corroborate their forecasts and lend support to their arguments in business plans. It is “official data” from an objective second source. And, the sample size is huge, thousands or tens of thousands of companies’ data, so it’s a valid sample.

In addition, special surveys, press releases and reports are being issued all the time. Health related reports, population reports, labor reports, etc.

You’ve already paid for all these surveys and data via your income taxes–so why not use it?

Note: To view ongoing business posts by Marketdata’s President and Research Director, John LaRosa, and to learn about our various market & industry reports, and to obtain free Press Releases, visit, or email: