Using the Statistical Abstract Online

The Statistical Abstract of the United States summarizes statistics on the social, political, and economic organization of the United States. Need data on employment figures, retail sales by industry, or commercial real estate? Those, and many other figures can be found in the SA. Fire up your browser.

The Statistical Abstract of the United States has been published by the U.S. Department of Commerce since 1878. This invaluable reference book is also available on the Web. Countless government agencies, as well as trade associations and private sources, contribute data each year to this summary of statistics on the social, political, and economic organization of the United States.

The Web site covers the most recent edition back through the 1995 issue. The data is arranged into thirty-one categories, each available in the Portable Document Format (PDF). In order to view these files, you will need the Adobe Acrobat Reader, which is available for free from the Adobe Web site. Among the most popular categories for business research are Population, Labor Force, Prices, Business Enterprises, and Comparative International Statistics. Each section includes an extensive overview explaining data terms, scope of coverage and a description of the types and sources of data. The various data are then represented in a tabular format with the corresponding source for the data clearly shown.

Typical questions that might be answered using the Statistical Abstract online are:

What is the dollar amount held by U.S. households in Equities, Corporate Bonds, and municipal securities? What percentage is that of the total holdings in these instruments? What are the total sales in the United States for sporting goods stores? What is the gross area available for lease in shopping centers in Georgia?

The Web version of the Statistical Abstract also contains an interactive index. Subjects are listed alphabetically with links to corresponding tables or to “see also” references. The interactive index feature is available for the 2000 edition only, but since the table numbers remain relatively unchanged from year to year, it should be a valuable feature in pinpointing specific pieces of information.
Reprinted with permission from HBS Working Knowledge, (c) 2002.