What is NAICS and how is it used?

The North American Industry Classification System (NAICS, pronounced Nakes) was developed as the standard for use by Federal statistical agencies in classifying business establishments for the collection, analysis, and publication of statistical data related to the business economy of the U.S.

NAICS was developed under the auspices of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and adopted in 1997 to replace the old Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) system.

It was also developed in cooperation with the statistical agencies of Canada and Mexico to establish a 3-country standard that allows for a high level of comparability in business statistics among the three countries.

NAICS is the first economic classification system to be constructed based on a single economic concept. Click here to learn more about the background, the development and the difference between NAICS and the SIC.

What is an establishment and what is an enterprise?

An establishment is generally a business or industrial unit at a single, physical location that produces or distributes goods or performs services (e.g., store, factory, farm, etc.).

An enterprise, on the other hand, may consist of more than one location performing the same or different types of economic activities. Each establishment of that enterprise is assigned a NAICS code based on its own primary activity.

How can I determine the correct NAICS code for my business?

NAICS was designed and documented in such a way to allow business establishments to self-code. There are a number of tools and references available to help you to determine the most appropriate NAICS code for your business:

You can use our Powerful Search Tool to find any NAICS code quickly and easily. Enter a keyword that describes your kind of business. A list of primary business activities containing that keyword and the corresponding NAICS codes will appear. Choose the one that most closely corresponds to your primary business activity, or refine your search to obtain other choices.

Rather than searching through a list of primary business activities you may also browse the NAICS Codes and Titles to find your code. You can select the category that applies to your business, and drill down through the more detailed levels until you find the appropriate 6-digit code.

If you know your old SIC code, you can use our Powerful Search Tool to locate the corresponding NAICS code. Simply enter the SIC code and the corresponding NAICS code(s) will appear.

To see the NAICS code associated with a specific business listing, use our US Business Directory Company Lookup Tool.

For more help with using the NAICS Search tool, click here.

Who assigns NAICS codes to businesses and how?

There is no central government agency with the role of assigning, monitoring, or approving NAICS codes for establishments.

NAICS Codes are self-assigned based on the establishment’s primary activity (the activity that generates the most revenue for the establishment)

Individual establishments are assigned NAICS codes by various agencies for various purposes using a variety of methods. The U.S. Census Bureau has no formal role as an arbitrator of NAICS classification.

The U.S. Census Bureau assigns one NAICS code to each establishment based on its primary activity (the activity that generates the most revenue for the establishment) to collect, tabulate, analyze, and disseminate statistical data describing the economy of the United States.

Generally, the U.S. Census Bureau’s NAICS classification codes are derived from information that the business establishment provided on administrative, survey, or census reports. (e.g. when a company applies for an Employer Identification Number (EIN), information about the type of activity in which that business is engaged is requested in order to assign a NAICS code).

Various other government agencies, trade associations, and regulation boards adopted the NAICS classification system to assign codes to their own lists of establishments for their own programmatic needs. If you question the SIC or NAICS code contained on a form received from an agency other than the U.S. Census Bureau, you should contact that agency directly.

How can I have my company’s NAICS code changed?

There is no “official” way to have a company’s SIC or NAICS code changed. Various Federal government agencies maintain their own lists of business establishments, and assign classification codes based on their own programmatic needs.

Generally, the classification codes are derived from information that the business establishment has provided on administrative, survey, or census reports. For this reason, we recommend that you contact the agency that has assigned the code that you believe should be changed.

For example, if you question the SIC or NAICS code contained on a form received from OSHA, you should contact the Department of Labor. For access to a list of Federal government agencies, visit this site.

How can I get a new NAICS code created for my type of business?

NAICS is scheduled to be reviewed every 5 years for potential revisions, so that the classification system can keep pace with the changing economy. This is the only time that new NAICS codes can be considered.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), through its Economic Classification Policy Committee (ECPC), will solicit public comments regarding changes to NAICS through a notice published in the Federal Register.

The notice will provide details of the format in which comments should be submitted, how and to whom they should be submitted, and the deadline for submission.

Generally, the comment period will close 90 days after publication of the notice. During that time, suggestions for new and emerging industries can be submitted to the ECPC.

This committee will review each comment submitted to determine its feasibility and adherence to the underlying principles of NAICS, consult with the NAICS counterparts in Canada and Mexico to determine if they can accept the proposed changes that would impact 3-country comparability, and then make final recommendations to OMB for additions and changes to the NAICS Manual.

This process is now completed for the 2012 revision to NAICS. The next scheduled review of NAICS will be for a potential 2017 revision. It is expected that the OMB will publish a Federal Register notice soliciting comments for that revision in late 2016 or early 2017.

How do the NAICS codes affect federal procurement and regulatory activities, such as those carried out by the Environmental Protection Agency, OSHA, the Department of Defense, and the General Service Administration?

NAICS was developed specifically for the collection and publication of statistical data to show the economic status of the United States.

The NAICS categories and definitions were not developed to meet the needs of procurement and/or regulatory applications.

However, other federal agencies trade associations, and regulation boards have adopted NAICS to use for procurement and regulatory purposes even though it does not entirely fit their specific needs.

The U.S. Census Bureau has no formal role as an arbitrator of statistical classification. For questions regarding other agencies’ use of the NAICS system, contact the specific agency. For access to a list of Federal government agencies, visit this site.

Will U.S. International Trade Data be available on a NAICS basis?

Data on international trade in goods are necessarily collected on a commodity basis, whereas NAICS and SIC, data are on an establishment basis.

Commodity groups approximating the NAICS categories were developed, however, and published for the years 1997 through 1999. (These overlap with series for groups using SIC commodity group classifications in the year 1997.)

It should be noted that some of the kinds of distinctions made in NAICS and other industry classifications cannot be made in commodity trade data. A notable example is printing and publishing.

NAICS places publishing in the new Information industry and retains only printing in manufacturing. In commodity trade data, however, the entire value of imported and exported publications is included in the goods classification “Printing, publishing and similar products.”

For additional information, please visit the USITC website.

How does NAICS handle market-based rather than production-based statistical classifications?

A new North American Product Classification System (NAPCS) is under development, starting in nine service sectors. Whereas NAICS focuses on the input and production processes of industries, NAPCS will classify all the output of the industries of NAICS.

The long-term objective of NAPCS is to develop a market-oriented, or demand-based, classification system for products that (a) is not industry-of-origin based but can be linked to the NAICS industry structure, (b) is consistent across the three NAICS countries, and (c) promotes improvements in the identification and classification of service products across international classification systems, such as the Central Product Classification System of the United Nations.

How does NAICS 2012 differ from NAICS 2007?

There were 1,175 industries in 2007 NAICS United States and in 2012 NAICS United States there are 1,065 industries. For 2012, revisions were made to address changes in the economy. These included content revisions for selected areas, several title changes, and clarification of a few industry definitions. Specifically, the changes include: (1) collapsing detail in the Manufacturing sector to reduce statistical product production costs and respondent burden; (2) adding new and emerging industries; (3) the classification of distribution centers, publishers’ sales offices, and logistics service providers; (4) the classification of units that outsource all transformation activities.

Noticeable changes were made to six of the twenty NAICS sectors during the 2012 revision of NAICS. These sectors are listed below:

  1. Sector 22, Utilities – 2007 NAICS code 221119, Other Electric Power Generation, was deleted and portions of it were reclassified, resulting in the addition of five new 6-digit industries: 221114, Solar Electric Power Generation; 221115, Wind Electric Power Generation; 221116, Geothermal Electric Power Generation; 221117, Biomass Electric Power Generation; 221118, Other Electric Power Generation.
  2. Sector 23, Construction – Building fireproofing contractors and fireproofing flooring construction contractors were moved to 238310, Drywall and Insulation Contractors.
  3. Sector 31-33, Manufacturing – Major changes were made in the Manufacturing sector, with the collapsing of detail. Digital camera manufacturing was moved to newly created industry, 333316, Photographic and Photocopying Equipment Manufacturing.
  4. Sector 42, Wholesale Trade – Electric water heaters was moved to 423720, Plumbing and Heating Equipment and Supplies (Hydronics) Merchant Wholesalers. Gas household appliances (except gas water heaters) was moved to newly titled 423620, Household Appliances, Electric Housewares, and Consumer Electronics Merchant Wholesalers.
  5. Sector 44-45, Retail Trade – 2007 NAICS codes 441221, Motorcycle, ATV, and Personal Watercraft Dealers, and 441229, All Other Motor Vehicle Dealers, were collapsed into a new 6-digit industry, 441228, Motorcycle, ATV, and All Other Motor Vehicle Dealers. 2007 NAICS codes 454311, Heating Oil Dealers; 454312, Liquefied Petroleum Gas (Bottled Gas) Dealers; 454319, Other Fuel Dealers, were collapsed into a new 6-digit industry, 454310, Fuel Dealers. Subsector 443, Electronics and Appliance Stores, was restructured.
  6. Sector 72, Accommodation and Food Services – Industries in Subsector 722, Food Services and Drinking Places, were restructured, resulting in new Industry Group 7225, Restaurants and Other Eating Places.

Where can I get a current list of NAICS codes?

We have several easy to use references available:

The Industry Drill-Down provides a complete list of 6-digit codes along with links to the full descriptions and cross-reference to similar codes.

The NAICS Manual & Downloadable Reference Files can be purchased here.

 

Can I get a NAICS code or other statistical data for a specific company?

The U.S. Census Bureau is unable to provide a NAICS or SIC code for a named business over the Internet or telephone without written request.

Luckily, we at the NAICS Association can provide statistical information for specific companies with this simple company lookup tool.

What is the relationship between NAICS and the SBA size standards?

The Small Business Administration (SBA) developed size standards for each NAICS category. To find more information about the SBA size standards, click here.

You may also contact SBA’s Office of Size Standards at 202-205-6618 or via email to sizestandards@sba.gov

How can I find data (payroll, establishment, sales receipts, etc.) for a specific NAICS industry?

You can obtain data for a specific NAICS industry by going to the 2007 Economic Census website. This website provides data at the sector level.

You may also get data by state, or selected metro area by using the pull-down menus in the upper right hand corner of the page. You may also obtain data from the American Fact Finder website.

You can obtain a quick report by either industry or geography by clicking on the links listed. Beginning with the 1998 data year, the annual County Business Patterns reports provide employment, payroll, number of establishments (but not sales/receipts). Click here to view the CBP data.

Why are some NAICS codes only 5-digits long?

NAICS is a two- through six-digit hierarchical classification code system, offering five levels of detail. Each digit in the code is part of a series of progressively narrower categories, and the more digits in the code signify greater classification detail. The first two digits designate the economic sector, the third digit designates the subsector, the fourth digit designates the industry group, the fifth digit designates the NAICS industry, and the sixth digit designates the national industry. A complete and valid NAICS code contains six digits.

In developing NAICS, the United States, Canada, and Mexico agreed that the 5-digit codes would represent the level at which the system is comparable among the three countries. The sixth digit allows for each of the countries to have additional detail (i.e., subdivisions of a 5-digit category). In cases where the U.S. did not choose to create additional detail, the 5- and 6-digit categories within U.S. NAICS are the same, and the 6-digit US NAICS code ends in zero. In some hierarchical presentations, the 6-digit code is omitted where it is the same as the 5-digit category.

I have seen NAICS codes with more than 6 digits. What are these, and how can I get a list of them?

Industries in the United States are identified by a six-digit code. Each manufacturing and mining product or service is identified by a ten-digit product code. The product coding structure represents an extension, by the U.S. Bureau of the Census, of the six-digit industry classification of the manufacturing and mining sectors. The product classification system operates so that the industrial coverage is progressively narrower with the successive addition of digits.

Do NAICS codes change over time?

NAICS will be reviewed every five years (in the years ending in ‘2’ or ‘7’) for potential revisions so that the classification system can keep pace with the changing economy.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB), through its Economic Classification Policy Committee (ECPC), will solicit public comments through a notice published in the Federal Register. The notice will provide details of the format in which comments should be submitted, to whom they should be submitted, and the deadline for submission. Generally, the comment period will close 90 days after publication of the notice.

During that time, suggestions for new and emerging industries can be submitted to the ECPC. This committee will review each comment submitted to determine its feasibility and adherence to the underlying principles of NAICS, consult with the NAICS counterparts in Canada and Mexico to determine if they can accept the proposed changes that would impact 3-country comparability, and then make final recommendations to OMB for additions and changes to the NAICS manual.

This process is now completed for the 2012 revision of NAICS. The next scheduled review of NAICS will be for a potential 2017 revision.

Can a business have more than one NAICS code?

The U.S. Census Bureau assigns and maintains only one NAICS code for each establishment based on its primary activity (generally the activity that generates the most revenue for the establishment). Since other federal government agencies, trade associations, and regulation boards maintain their own lists of business establishments and assign classification codes based on their own programmatic needs, this will vary by agency. Yes, some agencies assign more than one NAICS codes to one establishment. For instance, the SAM (System for Award Management formerly CCR), where businesses register to become federal contractors, will accept up to 5 or 10 classification codes per establishment. You will need to contact the other agencies to find out what their policies are. For access to a list of federal government agencies, click here.

What is Title 13?

Title 13, U.S. Code, Section 9 (a) prohibits the U.S. Census Bureau from disclosing individual company activities including NAICS and SIC codes. The Census Bureau is bound by Title 13 of the United States Code. These laws not only provide authority for the work we do, but also provide strong protection for the information we collect from individuals and businesses.
Title 13 provides the following protections to individuals and businesses:
Private information is never published. It is against the law to disclose or publish any private information that identifies an individual or business such, including names, addresses (including GPS coordinates), Social Security Numbers, and telephone numbers.
The Census Bureau collects information to produce statistics. Personal information cannot be used against respondents by any government agency or court.
Census Bureau employees are sworn to protect confidentiality. People sworn to uphold Title 13 are legally required to maintain the confidentiality of your data. Every person with access to your data is sworn for life to protect your information and understands that the penalties for violating this law are applicable for a lifetime.
Violating the law is a serious federal crime. Anyone who violates this law will face severe penalties, including a federal prison sentence of up to five years, a fine of up to $250,000, or both.
Title 13, U.S. Code is available to download from the Government Printing Office here [PDF 311KB].

How can I purchase a copy of the NAICS manual?

We have both hard copy and electronic manuals available:

The NAICS Manual is the official hard copy reference containing all the NAICS codes, descriptions, and cross-references. It is the easy “desk-reference” for everything NAICS. You can also find downloadable reference files here.

How NAICS codes relate to other classification systems?

NAICS has been correlated to the International Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) from the United Nations and to the General Industrial Classification of Economic Activities with the European Communities (NACE).

My company is overseas. What is my NAICS code?

NAICS was developed to classify the domestic activities of business establishments within the United States, Canada, and Mexico to allow for statistical comparability among the three North American countries. It is not within the purview of the Census Bureau, SBA, BLS etc. to classify operations of overseas businesses.
However, the NAICS Association has developed a system to assign NAICS codes to all overseas businesses.We can  Append these NAICS codes to your database of overseas businesses.

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