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June 3 -- The Census Bureau invites public comment on the proposed design of the Annual Wholesale Trade Survey (AWTS) for the years 2020-2022. Comments are due by August 3.
 
The AWTS covers employer firms with establishments located in the United States and classified in the wholesale trade sector, as defined by the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). This includes distributors, manufacturers' sales branches and offices, and agents and brokers. Estimated Number of Respondents: 7,743.

Firms are selected for this survey using a stratified simple random sample. For the AWTS, the strata are defined by type of operation, industry, and annual sales size. The sample is drawn from the Business Register (BR), which is the Census Bureau's master business list. The BR contains basic economic information for more than 7.4 million employer businesses and over 22.5 million nonemployer businesses; it is updated through direct data collections and administrative records from other federal agencies. In order to account for new businesses (births) and businesses that discontinue operations (deaths), the AWTS sample is updated quarterly. The sample is also updated to reflect mergers, acquisitions, divestitures, splits, and other changes to the business universe.

The data items requested in the AWTS include annual sales, e-commerce sales, number of establishments, inventories, purchases, operating expenses, commissions, sales on own account, and gross selling value. In response to a request from the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), the 2022 AWTS will also collect detailed operating expenses and sales tax information. Respondents are only asked to provide data for these two items in years ending in 2 and 7, which coincide with the Economic Census collection. For survey year 2020, the AWTS may include additional questions related to the impact coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) had on firms. A final decision has not been made yet on the inclusion of these questions.

From survey year 2016 through survey year 2019, there were five electronic form types. Starting with survey year 2020 (which will be collected in 2021), there will be three electronic form types (SA-42A, SA-42A-MSBO, and SA-42A-AGBR) to streamline data collection operations and reduce respondent burden. SA-42A will be shown to merchant wholesalers, excluding manufacturers' sales branches and offices. SA-42A-AGBR will be presented to agents, brokers, and electronic markets. SA-42A-MSBO will be displayed for manufacturers' sales branches and offices. Questionnaires are available at https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/awts/technical-documentation/questionnaires.html.

As noted, during the 2022 survey year, the AWTS also will collect detailed operating expenses and sales tax information. The last collection of this information took place during the 2017 survey year.  Click https://www2.census.gov/programs-surveys/awts/technical-documentation/questionnaires/2017/SA-42A.pdf to see an example of 2017 detailed operating expenses questions (Item 17 - Detailed Operating Expenses) and examples of 2017 sales tax questions (Items 5B and 5C).  
 
Government agencies, private businesses, and researchers often use the estimates generated from the AWTS. For example, the AWTS serves as a benchmark for the estimates produced from the Census Bureau's Monthly Wholesale Trade Survey (MWTS). BEA utilizes the data when developing its gross domestic product (GDP) estimates and the national accounts' input-output tables. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) uses the data as an input to its producer price indices and in developing productivity measurements. Furthermore, business and industry groups utilize the data to forecast future demand.

Estimates generated from the AWTS are released to the public approximately 14 months after the reference year has concluded. These national-level estimates are published (for the various items collected) by NAICS code and type of operation. Currently, the data are disseminated through the AWTS website. Beginning with survey year 2020, the Census Bureau also will release the data via the Census Bureau's dissemination platform, data.census.gov.
 
AWTS website:  https://www.census.gov/awts
Federal Register invitation to comment:  https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/06/03/2020-11961/agency-information-collection-activities-submission-to-the-office-of-management-and-budget-omb-for
Point of contact: John Dougherty, Chief, Wholesale Trade Branch (WTB), Economy-wide Statistics Division (EWD), U.S. Census Bureau  301-763-8936   John.Dougherty@census.gov

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