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Finding Local Economic Stories in Census Data: Self-guided training

U.S. Census Bureau County Business Patterns

County Business Patterns data from the U.S. Census Bureau can help you track trends in your local economy.

The free webinar, “Finding Local Economic Stories in Census Data,” took place Aug. 28, 2012.

Great stories on your local economy lurk in the annual County Business Patterns data from the U.S. Census, released in June 2012 for 2010. In this one-hour session, your guide to ferreting out those telling local business tales will be Paul Overberg, database editor for USA Today.


Here are some examples of how other reporters have used the data to develop enterprising local business stories:


This hourlong webinar will teach you how to use the County Business Patterns data to:

  • Compare one county’s economy to another county. For example, an urban county with a suburban or exurban neighbor. Or your local county to a competitor county elsewhere.

Additional online video tutorials below will coach you through using the data to:

  • Compare current data for a county with data from five or 10 years ago. County Business Patterns has been published annually since 1964; similar data were reported for various periods since 1946.
  • Compare the representation of various industries in your county to that of your state or the nation. What industry clusters do you have, and how do they reflect (or not) local economic-development efforts?
Paul Overberg

Paul Overberg


Paul Overberg has been USA TODAY’s database editor since 1993. He is one of the foremost experts among journalists on the U.S. Census and has trained journalists through the Reynolds Center, Investigative Reporters and Editors, and the Society of Professional Journalists in how to cover the Census. He describes his job as finding news in data. ”Often, it’s demographic data. But I analyze lots of numbers — airport security wait times, stream flows, Gallup poll data, campaign contributions,” he writes on USA Today’s website. ”And data isn’t just numbers. I analyze speech texts and social networks and spatial patterns, too.”


Check out the resources below. At your own pace, you can walk through the self-guided lesson on tips for mining Census data for local economic stories.

Session recording

PowerPoint presentation

Additional resources


In Business Beats, Economy, Self-guided and archives, Story ideas.

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