Australia, United Kingdom, Canada and the United States each have national statistical agencies. Each organization collects and publishes statistics on many facets of their respective countries. This article should simplify your work in searching, selecting and appraising these sources. There is also a firm providing value-added access to US statistics.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics has made their searchable catalogue available online. This is not, however, the only ‘in’ for this source.
The ABS publishes only a portion of the information they have available, which means you can purchase additional information from the ABS through their information consultants. For this, contact the number of the individual in charge of a given publication (bottom of first or second page), and ask what is available. You will not be able to identify individual firms from the data but the additional information is appropriately priced. Purchase by asking for a written quote from an ABS staff member.
There are other types of information available to purchase from the ABS. They have a product called 4-site, which combines census data, the business register, household expenditure surveys and the like into a package of information describing the clientele in a surrounding district; priced at AU$200 to $600. You can also purchase import or export data by destination, origin, and specific product code.
If you live in Australia, each capital state has its’ own ABS library. ABS publications are also found at all Universities, the State Library, and smaller collections can be found in many public libraries. If you visit the ABS library, be sure to ask for their free ABS catalogue on disk.
The UK Office for National Statistics keeps changing its website, shuffling resources to different sites. Let me simply draw your attention to www.spireproject.co.uk and their online bookstore (clicktso.comA Statistical Overview of the UK resides online.Publications be the UK Office for National Statistics, their product catalog, is buried on the advanced search feature of the clickuk.com website. Start at www.spireproject.co.uk
National Statistical Agencies are certainly not the only source of statistics. They are, however, some of the easiest to access.
These agencies have several traits that distinguish them from other information sources. Firstly, statistical agencies are legally required to disguise their statistics to protect the identity of specific businesses and individuals (with the exception of the Business Register). If there is only one or two timber exporters in Western Australia, the ABS will not give you timber exports from Western Australia. Specific information may be found in directories like Kompass, commercial databases, or insider information from either experts or articles by experts.
Secondly, national statistical agencies have a tendency to be old.Most surveys are not completed annually but rather every two, three or more years. Census data is older still. The analysis process also adds a delay. The ABS tends to take a year or more to collate and analyze statistics. For Legal and Accounting Services Australia we have ’92-’93 statistics, and the ’95-96 statistics are due to be released early Nov 1997. Certain statistics like National Indicators are rapidly produced but most are not.
Thirdly, national statistical agency publications are detailed – far more than most statistical publications. Commercial statistical sources often neglect supporting information like sample size and demographic breakdown but expect these publications to include this and more. Publications may still require further analysis, and may occasionally come from inferior sources of information but they are professionally delivered.
There are several ways to search each agency:
1_ Each agency has thoughtfully provided their catalogue of publications online. The links are above.
2_ Each agency collects certain information for analysis. It is helpful to become familiar with the various surveys and information sources used by each agency.
Besides the Census, the ABS conducts surveys of weekly household expenditure, agricultural land-use surveys, R&D; surveys, and periodic surveys of various segments of the economy (like Legal and Accounting Services, Australia 1992-93). They also collect landing cards (tourism information), export and import documentation, regional hotel occupancy rates and more. Each statistical agency is similar. If the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has not yet conducted a survey of hospital occupancy, this information will not be available.
3_ Agencies publish guides to information on a particular topic. They also publish various newsletters of recent releases and annual yearbooks too.