What is Quarterly Services Survey

The Quarterly Services Survey is produced and published by the U.S. Census Bureau. It tracks key areas of the U.S. service industry and provides quarterly estimates of revenue and expenses. Among the industries tracked in the survey are key communication-, information- and technology-related services firms, hospitals and nursing facilities, financial and insurance companies and more. The survey concentrates on these industries because they help drive productivity and contribute significant financial growth, all of which are important for keeping up with the current and potential future state of the domestic economy.

BREAKING DOWN Quarterly Services Survey

The Quarterly Services Survey was introduced in 2004. Each quarter, it delivers estimates of total operating revenue and percentage of revenue by class of customer, categorized by government, business, consumers and individuals. It also includes assessments of total operating expenditures from tax-exempt firms in industries with a sizable nonprofit component.

The survey is among the collection of other monthly and quarterly indicator surveys published by the Census Bureau. The indicator surveys help track current economic activity in the U.S., and they are closely monitored and extensively used by policy makers in both the public and private sectors. Prior to its inception, there were no other monthly, quarterly, or annual economic indicator surveys for service industry output.

The services sector represents a rapidly growing share of the overall economy. According to the Census Bureau as of June 2018, nearly 55 percent of all U.S. economic activity is accounted for by services, excluding retail and wholesale trade. Thus, a reliable gauge of the sector’s performance is an essential input tool for public policy makers. The survey also benefits investors who are seeking an objective assessment of the various components of the services universe, and a way to identify and capitalize on trends in the industry.

Providers and Uses of the Survey Data

The Quarterly Services Survey polls nearly 20,000 companies that operate within the covered industries. The sample is updated quarterly, adding new businesses identified in the Business and Professional Classification Survey, and removing companies firms that are no longer active. The full reports are available online approximately 75 calendar days following the end of each quarter, although a preliminary version is available 50 days after the quarter ends.

There are many users of the Quarterly Services Survey. According to the Census Bureau, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) is the principal federal consumer of the survey data. The BEA uses it to make more accurate estimates of both Personal Consumption Expenditures (PCE) and private fixed investment. Quarterly revenue data from the survey is also used to develop estimates of gross output by industry. This allows the BEA to develop an earlier account of gross domestic product (GDP). The Federal Reserve Board also uses the survey as a tool to gauge current economic performance.