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A guide to entrepreneurship and business plan resources

Industry Research

Before you can start your company or think about new products, you'll need to understand the industry within which you will be operating.  Different industries have different threats and opportunities you'll need to consider: Pending legislation or a difficult regulatory environment?  High/low barriers to entry?  Major competitors and market concentration?  Standard cost structure?  All of these are issues you will address with your industry research. 

Often industry data is organized by classification system codes established by the U.S. government: NAICS or SIC codes.  Knowing the code(s) for your industry can be extremely useful in your research.  For more information on NAICS, visit the Census Bureau NAICS page. For more information on SIC codes, visit the Department of Labor SIC page.  Or contact the Business Librarian for help.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

A government organization that “measures labor market activity, working conditions, price changes, and productivity in the U.S. economy to support public and private decision-making,” the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is a valuable source of market research and industry information.

If you’re on the homepage and you hover over the Data Tools drop-down menu, you’ll see a hyperlink to “Industry at a Glance.” Click on that, find your industry of interest, and explore the dozens of statistics that BLS has aggregated. 

If, for example, you’re interested in the apparel manufacturing industry — either because you’re in the industry or you sell into it — you can see how earnings, prices, and productivity figures are changing over time.

Head back to the homepage, hover over the Subjects drop-down menu, and you’ll see a section labeled "Geographic Information." Select your region of interest, filter by state or metropolitan area (if necessary), and take a tour of BLS’ enormous library of area-specific data.

U.S. Census Bureau

You can use the Census website to find industry-specific information. Select “Advanced Search.”

Underneath “Find A Filter,” type in the name of the industry you’re interested in researching. Once the search suggestions load, simply check the appropriate box and click “Search.”

From there, you’ll be able to explore thousands of data tables, maps, and white papers — many of them full of industry-specific information.

You can also find region-specific information. Head back to the Advanced Search engine, select “Geography” from underneath Browse Filters, and go from there. You can add keywords or industry codes to qualify your search.