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BTOS Expands Small Business Pulse Survey, Will Conduct Continuous Data Collection

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This summer, the U.S. Census Bureau will launch a new experimental survey that will provide biweekly business data on businesses of all sizes and a multitude of geographies.

The new Business Trends and Outlook Survey (BTOS) is the successor to and builds upon the Census Bureau’s Small Business Pulse Survey (SBPS), which was created in response to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The SBPS demonstrated the Census Bureau’s ability to collect and publish high frequency and timely data during a national emergency with severe economic impacts. BTOS will capitalize on this success and expand the original survey’s (SBPS) scope of SBPS to include large single location employer businesses (500 or more employees).

The survey will collect and publish data products every two weeks along with measures of quality based on national representative samples. BTOS will provide information on a broad array of businesses by sector, state, and the 25 most populous Metropolitan Statistical Areas.

Differences Betwen SBPS and BTOS

It will produce data continuously, responding to feedback from data users that longer SBPS time series would have been useful to contextualize pandemic impacts. The Census Bureau published a notice about the new survey seeking public comment in the Federal Register on Nov. 9, 2021.

BTOS data will be representative of all single location employer businesses in the U.S. economy, excluding farms. Continuous data will allow for the measurement of economic trends during all phases of the business cycle as well as during economic and other emergencies.

It will shed light on the state of the economy prior to and during an event — including but not limited to natural disasters or economic crises. It will also assist in monitoring recovery from the event and in understanding large and small changes in economic trends throughout the business cycle.

The data will be valuable for elected and other government officials and policymakers, industry leaders, economic and social analysts, business entrepreneurs, news organizations and academics, among others.

It will initially be released via the Census Bureau’s Experimental Data Products site.

When BTOS Starts

Biweekly data collection is scheduled to begin mid-July 2022.

The Census Bureau will contact approximately 200,000 businesses every two weeks and estimates that it will take the average respondent approximately 6 minutes to complete the survey, including the time for reviewing the instructions and answering. Selected businesses will receive the survey once every 12 weeks for a year.

More detailed information on the survey is available on the BTOS page.

Jane Callen is the senior writer/editor in the Census Bureau’s Communications Directorate.

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