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Need the Facts? 5 Sources of Free Economic and Market Data from Uncle Sam

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Need the Facts? 5 Sources of Free Economic and Market Data from Uncle Sam

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: June 13, 2010 Updated: March 28, 2013

Whether you are planning a start-up, expanding into new markets, or looking to tweak your business strategy, you need to understand your market; where i-s been and where i-s going.



While analyzing your existing customer data is a great way to identify consumer need, do't ignore how valuable external market data can be in helping you build a picture of how your customer base is changing, where similar prospects exist in other geographies, as well as what the competition is doing.


The good news for budget conscious small businesses is that the federal government' currently the largest producer of data in the U.S.' has agencies and offices dedicated to collecting, analyzing, and reporting on business, industrial and economic activity.


Here are five bookmark-worthy government sources of market data and statistics:


1. Business Data and Statistics Portal from Business.gov


To get you started, I suggest you bookmark Business.go's Business Data and Statistics page. Here you will find a collection of resources providing free access to business and economic statistics collected by the U.S. Government.


Whether your market strategy is business-to-business or business-to-consumer, yo'll find access to demographics from the U.S. Census Bureau and Department of Labor, economic indicators, and statistics on everything from income, employment, trade, manufacturing, and more. You can also search for data by industry type.


2. The U.S. Census Bureau

    As you might imagine, the U.S. Census Bureau is a vast source of information. But in recent years the site has become much easier to navigate thanks to a variety of Data Access Tools. For example, take a look at The American FactFinder, just enter a city and state and the tool will generate a city fact sheet that includes social, economic, household and demographic data for your town or future location.


    The Business & Industry section on the site also provides essential data about all manner of trades from retail to exporting, construction to manufacturing. If you need to know what the current competitive and market landscape looks like for your business, this section is for you.

    If you like what you see but are not sure how to use and interpret the data, the Census Bureau is hosting seminars across the country to help business owners learn more about business and industry data on the site. Find a seminar in your area.


    3. FedStats.gov

      FedStats.gov is a no-frills data-driven Web site that provides access to the full range of official statistical information produced by the Federal Government without having to know in advance which Federal agency produces which particular statistic. Data is available on topics such as economic and population trends, crime, education, health care, aviation safety, energy use, farm production and more.


      4. SBA - Small Business Statistics

        The Small Business Administration (SBA) does its own business research through the SBA Office of Advocacy. This site provides information and useful newsletters on small business conditions within the U.S.


        5. EconomicIndicators.gov

          There are more than a dozen government sources that provide data specific to the U.S. economy (links to all of these can be found on that Business.gov page, Business Data and Statistics). There is, however, one worth noting' Economicindicators.gov. This site, provided by the Economics and Statistics Administration and the Department of Commerce, provides access to daily releases of key economic indicators from the Bureau of Economic Analysis and the Census Bureau. This is probably your best bet if yo're looking for one site that says it all.


          Additional Resources


          Visit the Small Business Guide to Market Research for information on how to conduct research on your customers and your competition.


          About the Author:

          Caron Beesley


          Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

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