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U.S. Economic Data: Getting Started

Sources for statistical data from the United States federal government.

Related Research Guides


Refer to the documentation available with the particular source and/or consult a standard citation manual.


Library Catalog


Most of the statistical information in this guide is available on the Internet. Some older information might only be found in the Federal Documents Collection of Perkins Library.

Much of the data mentioned in this guide is from the Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) (both part of under the Economics and Statistics Administration of the U.S. Department of Commerce) and by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the U.S. Department of Labor.

For company and market information (which are not included here), start with our guides on Business and on Company & Industry Research.


Books that explain various economic indicators and terms, and how the figures are determined.

  • Guide to Economic Indicators, 4th ed., by Norman Frumkin.
    Perkins/Bostock Ref. HC103 .F9 2006
    Focus on the U.S. federal statistical agencies and their methodology.
  • The Economist Guide to Economic Indicators: Making Sense of Economics, by Richard Stutely.
    Call Numbers/Locations
    An international perspective, focusing on the top 15 industrial economies.
  • Economic Indicators Handbook: Time Series, Conversions, Documentation. 1992-.
    Perkins/Bostock Ref HB1 .E46 (older editions in Perkins stacks or in LSC)
  • O'Hara, Frederick M.  Handbook of United States Economic and Financial Indicators.  2000.
    [paper editions in Duke Libraries]
Statistical Methods

Collection and analysis methods differ from one government agency to another, so similarly labeled data may not actually be equivalent. This can especially be a problem when trying to cobble together long time series from multiple sources.

Consult the source's documentation, looking for anything about "methodology."  The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) publishes a Handbook of Methods (Also in paper: Perkins Ref. U.S. L 2.3:2490) detailing their statistical concepts, definitions, sources, methods, and procedures.

Subject Guide

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