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2012 Census of Governments in Progress

By Tim Brown
TAC Senior County Analyst

The 2012 Census of Governments is underway. By now, some of you will have already returned the Government Units Survey that was sent in October 2011.

As the first of three phases, the survey collects descriptive information on the basic characteristics of local governments, including counties, in preparation for the 2012 Census of Governments. The data will also be used to produce the official count of local government units in the United States and to update and verify the mailing addresses of those units.

Later this year, during the second phase, the Census Bureau will request data on state and local government employment and finances. The Bureau will mail the employment questionnaire in March to collect information on the number of civilian employees and their payrolls.

The third phase will begin in October 2012 with the mail out of the finance questionnaire. This last phase will collect information on revenue, expenditures, assets, debt and pensions.

Background
The Census of Governments began in 1957 and occurs in years ending in “2” and “7” as required by law under Title 13, U.S. Code, Section 161. It provides the only source of comprehensive, uniform statistics on the economic activity of state and local governments, as it identifies the scope and nature of the nation’s state and local government sector; provides authoritative benchmark figures of public finance and public employment; classifies local government organizations, powers, and activities; and measures federal, state, and local fiscal relationships. Following the activity of governments over time tells the story of the fiscal condition of federal, state, and local government thus helping both local and national policymakers make informed decisions.

Application
On the national level, data from the Census of Governments is used by the Bureau of Economic Analysis as input to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and the Federal Reserve Board as input to the Flow of Funds account. State and local governments use the data to develop programs and budgets, assess financial conditions and perform comparative analysis.

Scheduled Release
Data from phase one of the Census of Governments is scheduled for release beginning in August 2012. The report will provide the number and types of government units by state. More comprehensive data will follow.

More Information
If you have questions or would like further information on the Census of Governments from the Census Bureau, please call (800) 242-2184 or email . For general information and to obtain data from past Censuses of Governments, visit www.census.gov.

Contact Tim Brown at (800) 456-5974 or e-mail for more information about this article.