You’ve surely heard the phrase “your government tax dollars at work.” What you may not realize is that some of this public money pays for the research, compilation, analysis, and presentation of valuable U.S. business information — data that you can use to operate and grow your company at no charge.
The federal government is willing to provide you with this information for free, because your use of it helps contribute tens of billions of dollars in annual products, services, and value to the American economy, and also because the cost of collecting and putting the data into usable form is funded with your taxpayer dollars.
What’s Available — and Where to Find It
The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, for example, provides information about the nation’s economic activity, broken down by state, county, and metropolitan area. It also offers information about how much people earn in various places. These numbers, some of which are provided in interactive tables, can help you analyze the potential size and capacity of any market area in which you’re thinking of doing business.
If you want to know how much goods and services cost in a given region, relative to others, check out the BEA’s new regional price parity index. This tool allows direct comparisons between what it costs to live in various states, cities, and metropolitan and non- metropolitan areas across the country.
The U.S. Census Bureau also offers valuable business data for free. For example, its American Community Survey is a cornucopia of detailed statistics for neighborhoods from one end of the U.S. to the other. Here you can find details about the social, economic, and housing characteristics of any place you’re considering doing business. Use this data to better select a location on the basis of market opportunities, workforce makeup, and the affluence and number of potential customers.
The Census Bureau also maintains a Business and Industry page that covers industrial sectors, with historical data broken down by county, which you’d pay a fortune for elsewhere. County Business Patterns gives you a breakdown of the number of business establishments and payroll data in specific areas during recent calendar periods. The same numbers are also broken down by ZIP codes, so businesses can look at neighborhoods from that perspective, if they prefer. This information can be important for anyone who’s analyzing the market potential, developing advertising budgets, or measuring the effectiveness of current spending on advertising and promotion in particular locales.
Additional links to free government business data include:
- Commerce Department (Economic Data)
- Commerce Department (Economic Indicators)
- Commerce Department (Economy)
- Economics and Statistics Administration
How to Access Data via Mobile, Email
You may even tap into some of this data via your smartphone (Android/iOS) by downloading the free America’s Economy app. Review real-time government statistics from the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Economic Analysis, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics while you ride the train or wait for your next appointment!
You can also ask to have economic information delivered right to your email inbox. Simply sign up and then click on pages of interest to specify exactly which data you want to receive. You can get the same service from the Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis.