When New Resources Contain Aging Data

As the Econ & Stats Manager at NFPA, I receive a lot of questions concerning the timing and accuracy of industry and economic data. So when the U.S. Census Bureau and other economic firms release new resources that contain older data, many of our members don’t hesitate to ask me, “Why?” “How can data from one, two, or even three years ago help me examine the industry today?”

A great example of this is the U.S. Census Bureau’s Annual Survey of Manufacturers (ASM), which is the U.S. federal government’s official annual measure of American manufacturing and the economy. It is one of the largest and most detailed annual data surveys conducted, requesting data from over 50 thousand manufacturers, including large and medium companies representing all U.S. industries. As you can imagine, data collection, verification, analysis, organization and delivery is going to take some time, which explains why the data in this report can be anywhere from one to two years old. It is also the main data source for NFPA’s Annual Survey of Fluid Power Manufacturers, an annual report that we create based on the Census Bureau report, and which includes market and product level shipment dollar data for the U.S. fluid power industry. This is an indispensable tool for determining market size, share, and segmentation.

But that still doesn’t answer, “What good is data that is a year or more old?” Well, in the example above, the report is the most representative data source for U.S. manufacturing across many industries, including fluid power. This makes it an extremely solid baseline to work from, and from this baseline we can develop a very accurate estimation for that industry for the current time period. For example, combining the year-to-date percent change of industry shipments for 2013 & 2014 from NFPA’s Confidential Shipment Statistics program with the latest 2012 industry shipments data identified in NFPA’s Annual Survey of Fluid Power Manufacturers will give you a very strong estimate for the market size in the current year.

So the example above shows us that newly released resources containing data from year(s) ago can still play an important role in understanding our industry today, if the data is accurate and representative, and when it can be combined with newer information to provide a more current look.

NFPA is the leading source of hydraulic and pneumatic industry data, allowing members to plan their next move, utilize expert analysis and data, and work with tools based on their needs. For more information about NFPA’s industry reports and data, please visit www.nfpa.com or contact Eric Armstrong, (414) 778-3372.


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