We’re all vaguely familiar with the Census Bureau thanks to a survey dropped in our mailboxes every ten years. We answer some general questions about the number of people in our household and a few household characteristics and then don’t have to think about the census for another ten years.
As economic development professionals it’s important to know the demographic make-up of your community and the Census Bureau is a key resource for that data.
An overview of what data the Census Bureau collects is available at the About Us section of their site. To briefly summarize, they collect:
- Population & Housing Data (every 10 years)
- Economic Census (every 5 years)
- Census of Governments (every 5 years)
- American Community Survey (annually)
- Economic Indicators (ongoing)
- Many Other Demographic & Economic Surveys
The Census Bureau produces a lot of data – more than I can cover in one post – so I’m going to focus on three of the key data tools I utilize from the Census Bureau site.
State & County QuickFacts
Quick Facts is a collection of the most current, most referenced Census data pulled together into a one-stop location for easy access.
- Includes statistics for all states and counties and for cities and towns with more than 5,000 people. If your city is not available in the list, it will direct you to similar information for your community in American Fact Finder.
- Provides data from Population Estimates, American Community Survey, Census of Population and Housing, State and County Housing Unit Estimates, County Business Patterns, Non-employer Statistics, Economic Census, Survey of Business Owners, and Building Permits.
- South Dakota’s Quick Facts Profile
American Fact Finder
If you can’t find the detail you want in the QuickStats, American Fact Finder is your next stop. American Fact Finder (AFF) is the Census’ one-stop shop for detailed statistics from the following surveys:
- American Community Survey
- American Housing Survey
- Annual Economic Surveys
- Annual Surveys of Governments
- Census of Governments
- Decennial Census
- Economic Census
- Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)
- Population Estimates Program
- Puerto Rico Community Survey
- If looking for data on a specific state, county, city, town, or zip code the Community Facts search feature is a good place to start.
- If looking for data for multiple geographies the Guided Search is the easiest way to ferret out the data you want.
- An Advanced Search gives you access to every geographic type and dataset.
Local Employment Dynamics (LED)
The LED partnership combines federal, state and Census Bureau data on employers and employees and allows for in-depth analysis of local markets – something that has previously been a challenge because of strict confidentiality rules.
There are several tools available for extracting/utilizing the data available here:
- LED Extraction Tool and/or Quarterly Workforce Indicators (QWI) Online – Lets you analyze quarterly job flow by county or metropolitan area, industry, gender, and age.
- Industry Focus Reports – Allows you to rank industry sectors on a state, county, or metro level according to job flow variables or workforce characteristics.
- On The Map – (my favorite) – Illustrates data with maps and charts based on where workers live or work, allowing for analysis by age, earnings, and industry.
So there you go. To learn about the demographic make-up of your community at the Census Bureau, start with QuickFacts. If QuickFacts doesn’t have quite what you need or you want to start comparing your community to other communities or regions, move on to American Fact Finder. And to dig into local industry and job flow stats in your community start exploring the Local Employment Dynamics.
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