Is Washington bungling the Census?

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Washington is supposed to tell us what we need to know about America—a wonky but crucial mission that’s suddenly in trouble

By Danny Vinik | POLITICO

For more than 200 years, the federal government has regularly taken an immense survey of American business called the Economic Census. Though not as well-known as the decennial census, the big population count in which enumerators tally Americans house to house, it has been conducted at least every five years since 1905, with a gap only during World War II. Its basic measurements of economic activity, like jobs and revenue, are crucially important to companies, policymakers and anyone trying to track the nation’s economic health.

The next Economic Census was supposed to start in January, five years after the previous one, as usual. But earlier this year, the Census Bureau quietly changed its deadline, pushing it back at least six months. The agency told POLITICO that it has not publicly announced the delay but confirmed that aspects of the Economic Census were “re-planned,” and the results would be out six months late.

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