Business & Career Library

Business Resources: Researching an Industry

General Works

The Economic Census provides statistical data on all industries. The Economic Census is produced on a five-year cycle and the 2007 data is just becoming available. The site has a three main sections.

  • Industry Snapshots

  • - an overview of trends and facts about your business. Determine which major industry your business is part of and click on the "More" arrow, for specific business types. "Go to Industry Snapshot 2007" will give you the size of the industry, trends from 2002 to 2007 and a variety of useful ratios.

  • Data for your Local Area - industry information for more specific geographic areas. Enter a state and make sure to press "Go" to get a selection of locales ranging from counties to metro areas. At this time only 2002 data is available on the local level.

  • Industry Statistics Sampler - statistics on self-employed (businesses with only one employee) as well as businesses with employees. This section also has a tab that is a "Guide to Other Data Sources" in addition to the Census.

To determine your industry, use North American Industrial Classification System (NAICS), which grew out of the Standard Industrial Classification (SIC), the first system widely used within the United States to classify industries and types of business by a numeric code. To identify an industry code go to or use the NAICS or SIC manuals found at the Business Library's reference desk.

For "competitive intelligence" - data that is useful in determining the number of businesses of a particular type in a county or state - check out County Business Patterns on the Census Bureau site, remembering that Brooklyn is Kings County.

Search for industry overviews on Business & Company Resource Center, which includes detailed essays from Encyclopedia of American Industries, Encyclopedia of Global Industries and Encyclopedia of Emerging Industries.

Standard & Poor's Industry Surveys introduce you to industry information basics. It includes short but comprehensive two-page reports for 52 industries. There are also valuable industry references at the end of each report.

Plunkett's Research, Ltd. offers market research and statistics, as well as in depth information on major companies within specific industries. This resource can be accessed only within the Business Library, so visit us and have a librarian help you out.

Industry Research Desk, outlines 17 steps in the industry research process. Under "Industry Portals" it also provides links to a large number of websites that represent individual industries.

Valueline Investment Survey includes one-page profiles of various industries such as entertainment, hotels or advertising. Valueline is primarily known as a highly regarded investment service that evaluates and ranks 1,700 companies. This database must be accessed with the help of a librarian at the Business Library.

The Manufacturing and Construction Division of the U.S. Census Bureau publishes Current Industrial Reports and the Annual Survey of Manufacturers, which provide data and key indicators regarding U.S. economic production and activity.

Financial Information

The Business Library has numerous sources for detailed financial information on industries and the publicly owned companies within each industry.

Healthcare and insurance are two industries that investors and business owners often research. Wendhover's Health Care Strategist provides a comprehensive reference for mergers, acquisitions and financing in the healthcare services industry. Best's Insurance Reports - Life/Health and the companion volume for Property/Casualty indicate the financial strength of thousands of insurance entities in 65 countries.

For further tips on researching financial information, please visit the subject guides for Personal Investment Resources and Financial Investment Ratings.

Individual Industries

Nonfinancial industry information is also available. The following list of handbooks, manuals and almanacs includes many specialized resources. Others may be found in the Library Catalog. Computer Industry Almanac includes a company directory, product and technology trends, and international markets.

Directory of the Canning, Freezing, Preserving Industries contains extensive information on North American food processors. The standard edition in print format includes the alphabetical listing of company profiles, a geographical list, a product list, a brand list, an association list and a detailed product index.

The Bowker Annual and Book Industry Trends are central references for information on the publishing industry, both print and electronic.


Telephone Books are such an obvious and excellent reference source that they are often overlooked. Becoming familiar with the subject headings in the telephone books also makes it easier to search the database ReferenceUSA.

The Business Library covers about 180 subjects in its Service Directories and Product Directories collection. The Service Directories identify businesses or professionals within a specific area of activity (such as banking, publishing or direct marketing). Product Directories are invaluable as buyers' guides to products and materials manufactured by specific industries (such as sporting goods or office supplies).


The financial makeup of small firms differs significantly from large firms. This might seem obvious but it was only 24 years ago that the Financial Studies of Small Business first compiled and published financial data on small business, which enabled cmpanies to compare their financial ratios with firms of a similar size. It also includes tables based on the 25 percent most profitable firms and a five-year trend by category.

The federal government is the primary statistical source for analyzing industry sectors such as manufacturing, service, finance and infrastructure. The government's raw data can be difficult and time consuming to synthesize, so publishers create useful reference books that present federal statistical information in a more user-friendly format.

Gale Group's "USA" series analyzes 20 economic sectors as defined by the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS). Manufacturing & Distribution USA, Information, Finance, & Services USA, Infrastructure Industries USA and Services Industries USA present data from several government agencies. These sources also combine information on public and private corporations from Ward's Business Directory of U.S. Private and Public Companies and representative nonprofit organizations drawn from the National Directory of Nonprofit Organizations.

Corporate tax returns, financial statement studies and market share reports from periodical articles are continually studied and analyzed to minimize risk in business. They have been synthesized to produce financial and operating ratios, which can be very helpful when you're starting a business. The Almanac of Business and Industrial Financial Ratios, Industry Norms & Key Business Ratios, Market Share Reporter and the RMA Annual Statement Studies are some of the best-known sources for financial and operating ratios.

Company Histories

The Encyclopedia of Business History and Biography and The International Dictionary of Company History provide historical records of worldwide businesses and their leading figures. Both multivolume sets are organized by industry groups (such as aviation, advertising and automotive) and provide background on the origins and growth of each category. If a company is not publicly held, these histories are valuable sources for name changes and mergers that are otherwise difficult to track.

Trade Journals

Trade journals are an excellent source for the most current news on an industry. They are also often the best way to research narrowly defined topics. Industry group classifies the Business Publications volume of Standard Rate and Data (SRDS). In addition to identifying relevant journals, SRDS also provides detailed information on advertising rates in trade journals. There are many Business databases are available on the Brooklyn Public Library's e-resources site. Here one can research specific news of an industry by obtaining lists of articles, abstracts, and in some instances, the full text of the articles themselves.