To provide monthly estimates of sales and inventories of wholesale trade industries. The United States Code, Title 13, authorizes this survey and provides for voluntary responses.
Companies with employment that are primarily engaged in merchant wholesale trade in the U.S. These include merchant wholesalers that take title of the goods they sell, and jobbers, industrial distributors, exporters, and importers. Excluded are non-merchant wholesalers such as manufacturer sales branches and offices; agents, merchandise or commodity brokers, and commission merchants; and other businesses whose primary activity is other than wholesale trade.
Companies provide data on dollar values of merchant wholesale sales and end-of-month inventories.
Monthly since 1939; companies report data for activity taking place during each previous month. New samples are drawn approximately every 5 years and are updated quarterly. Use of the latest sample began in 2006.
A mail-out/mail-back survey of about 4,500 selected wholesale firms. The sample of merchant wholesalers is drawn from the Business Register which contains all Employer Identification Numbers (EINs) and locations of establishments for listed businesses. EINs may represent one or more establishments and companies may have one or more EINs. Firms are stratified by merchant wholesale sales, inventories and major kind of business (determined from the latest census of wholesale trade).
The sample is updated every quarter to reflect "births" and "deaths"; adding new employer businesses identified in the business and professional classification survey and deleting companies that no longer have active EINs. New firms are represented in the sample approximately 9 months after they begin operation. To account for births during this interim period, data are imputed for all EINs that go out of business but are still active on the IRS mailing list.
Monthly Wholesale Trade Sales and Inventories reports are released 6 weeks after the close of the reference month. They contain preliminary current month estimates and final data for the previous month. Statistics include sales, inventories and inventory/sales ratios along with standard errors. Data are both seasonally adjusted and unadjusted.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis uses the estimates as an input to estimate sales and inventories for the Gross Domestic Product. The Council of Economic Advisers uses the estimates to assess near term economic activity. The Department of the Treasury uses the estimates to research economic trends.
Business and industry groups use the estimates to forecast future demand. Researchers use the estimates to benchmark the results from their own sampling operations. Manufacturers can use inventory estimates as a proxy for the distributors confidence for future expected sales.