How to Access Free Government Data

By Kathryn Hawkins Monday, August 26, 2013

When you’re developing a new business or growing an existing one, it can be beneficial to gain access to as much data as possible relating to your business strategy, whether you’re looking at factors such as average product or service pricing, average salaries for a region or the most lucrative prospects to approach as investors, to name a few. While there are many premium services that can provide you with this information for a fee, there are ways you can find this information free of charge. Here are some free sources of data that can help your business:

Bureau of Labor Statistics wage data – The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is a useful resource for helping you set fair, competitive wages in your market. You can view wage data according to industry or occupation, and group the data by region, state, or metropolitan area. There may be a large difference in average salary for a computer programmer in Maine and one in California, for instance. Researching the BLS data can help you set a fair price for your given area to help you set an appropriate budget for your staffing needs.

Monthly and Annual Retail Trade – The retail trade chart is updated monthly with the latest available data on sales of all types of retail products and goods, broken down into categories including food service, furniture and home furnishings, automotive purchases, clothing stores, and a number of other verticals. If you are opening a retail or e-commerce store or a restaurant, these charts can help you get a good sense of current sales trends for particular categories, and help you estimate seasonal fluctuation in item sales. Annual and quarterly reports are also available, providing a deeper dive into each industry’s annual sales, inventory, operating expenses, and other factors. The annual report is only available up until 2011, so for a more current look at the retail climate, the monthly and quarterly reports will likely prove more helpful.

Many more free sources of government data are available to help you with your business. In order to find the sources that are most relevant to you, visit the USA’s business page here: www.usa.gov/business/business-data, which offers links to dozens of additional business data resources.

*Disclaimer*: Harvard Business Services, Inc. is neither a law firm nor an accounting firm and, even in cases where the author is an attorney, or a tax professional, nothing in this article constitutes legal or tax advice. This article provides general commentary on, and analysis of, the subject addressed. We strongly advise that you consult an attorney or tax professional to receive legal or tax guidance tailored to your specific circumstances. Any action taken or not taken based on this article is at your own risk. If an article cites or provides a link to third-party sources or websites, Harvard Business Services, Inc. is not responsible for and makes no representations regarding such source’s content or accuracy. Opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of Harvard Business Services, Inc.

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