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Economic Census changes how business locations are indicated

Spotting exactly where a business is located presents problems since there are no addresses in the territory

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — “One of the big changes for the questionnaire that covers American Samoa is [that] we redesigned the question that asks about the physical location” of local businesses, says Robert Nusz, the Economic Census Assistant Survey Director, Staff Chief with the U.S Census Bureau.

Nusz — who was also in the territory in 2018 for the 2017 Economic Census — offered the explanation during a Samoa News interview yesterday, when asked about major changes in the 2022 Economic Survey questionnaire for American Samoa, which Samoa News points out — does not have street addresses.

Nusz, who arrived Monday night with his colleague Michael Sprung, the Economic Census Assistant Survey director of the US Census, noted during the interview that businesses listed their location as a P.O Box, Pago Pago.

“So we’ve added a question, to try to get more information exactly where they’re located,” he said, adding this physical location is needed because the “statistics” are published by district — Eastern, Western and the Manu’a islands.

“If all the information we have is a Post Office box, they unfortunately get coded to the District where the P.O. Box is,” he said. “So we’re going to try and get more information where they’re actually located.”

For example, the questionnaire will asked the name of the village in which the business is “physically located in... and specify that a P.O. Box is not a physical location,” he pointed out.

Furthermore, businesses are asked to describe their physical location. “Anything that might help us,” he said.

As previously reported by Samoa News, the U.S Census Bureau launched on Jan. 31, data collection for the 2022 Economic Census for businesses across the U.S and the Insular Areas — including American Samoa.

For the 2022 Economic Census of Island Areas — the five U.S. territories — the Census Bureau explained that “respondents are encouraged to report electronically but small companies located in the Island Areas will have a paper option available.”

The census is the U.S. government's official 5-year measurement of American businesses and the economy — covering years ending in "2" and “7”.

During the Samoa News interview at the ASG Commerce Department office at the Fagatogo Market Place, Nusz noted that the census only covers businesses with paid employees.

“Unfortunately, it doesn’t cover business that don’t have paid payroll taxes” to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) “which we know it’s a big part of the economy here,” he said, and reiterated that any business that has any amount of paid payroll to the IRS for 2022 is covered in the 2022 Economic Census.

He shared that the economic census collects statistics on revenue, payroll, employment and “various different things like inventory, capital expenditures.”

“These statistics are all used as inputs to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for American Samoa,” he said and pointed out that the U.S Bureau of Economic Analysis — which is a separate federal agency — takes these numbers and uses them to base their GDP statistics for American Samoa going forward for the next five years.

Nusz emphasized that the survey is important and entirely confidential, as there are businesses reluctant to respond, as they are concerned with the confidentiality of the information provided in the questionnaire.

“It’s a very important survey, it’s mandatory and entirely confidential,” he stressed. “Any information that we collect — names, address, anything like that — is entirely confidential and we don’t release any statistics that would identify individual businesses.”

The 2017 Economic Census conducted in 2018 for American Samoa, allowed businesses, for the first time, to respond electronically and it’s the same this year.

“We have the availability of electronic reporting for every business, and it’s fast, simple and secure. We estimate that it will take about an hour to maybe fill it out,” said Nusz.

But for small businesses, with only one-location, if they prefer “we offer them a paper questionnaire to fill out,” he said.

Sprung — the Economic Census Assistant Survey Director —  added that, the Census Bureau “put a lot of effort into the electronic instrument that everybody will use” making it easy for everybody to access and fill out the electronic form.

He said that if the Census Bureau sends paper form questionnaires to the business for the wrong industry, “it’s difficult for you to make that change on paper. If you do it electronically, you can select a different industry and follow a different path through the survey.”

While a paper form is available for businesses in the insular areas, Nusz said “online is preferable because we get the results quicker and some businesses prefer that.”

And he confirmed that the Census Bureau plans to release the census results in June 2024. Business have until March 15 to submit their responses.

The Census Bureau officials are on island to conduct outreach and promotion programs, such as speaking with the news media. They depart tomorrow night — Thursday — and head to Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

“We’re kicking off the economic census of island areas in American Samoa,” declared Sprung, towards the end of the interview, with a smile. The statement was acknowledged by Nusz, who also smiled.

Call the ASDOC-Statistics Division at (684) 633-0120 if more information is needed.

And the Census Bureau shared the following online links for local businesses:

•           Responder page (

•           About the Economic Census page (