Federal censuses and surveys gather detailed information on a wide variety of construction subjects. There are annual statistics available on housing starts in the United States for each year, beginning with 1889, and on the value of construction put in place since 1915. Monthly data on the number of residential housing units authorized by building permits have been published since 1945.
The U.S. Census Bureau collected statistics on companies in the construction industry for 1929, 1935, and 1939 (published as business census reports), and in the quinquennial census of construction industries starting in 1967. Since 1959, when the U.S. Census Bureau assumed responsibility for the current-construction survey programs, a number of surveys have been expanded and new ones introduced, including the Survey of Manufactured Housing, which is sponsored by and published jointly with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).
Title 13, United States Code-Census, the basic statute under which the U.S. Census Bureau operates, authorizes the collection of construction data. According to this law, compliance with the economic census is mandatory, but response to the surveys is voluntary. In all cases, the law strictly protects the confidentiality of the information the U.S. Census Bureau collects about individual firms and construction projects and prescribes heavy penalties for disclosure.