The ideal business list would also provide a unified sampling frame, in contrast to the overlapping, but not entirely consistent business lists currently maintained separately by the Census Bureau and BLS. A growing amount of time and effort is being spent comparing and attempting to reconcile these different lists. The goals of the major comparison project (described by Paul Hanczaryk of the Census Bureau and James Spletzer of BLS in National Research Council, 2006) are twofold: to understand the differences in the lists and to identify the strengths and weaknesses of each. There are indeed clear advantages and disadvantages to alternative administrative and survey data from BLS and the Census Bureau, respectively. Thus, “unified” should not be interpreted as drawing from a single administrative and survey source or agency. Rather, an ideal business list would integrate multiple sources so that a common registry is used for key business surveys underlying the National Income and Product Accounts (and related federal business statistics).
The ideal business list would assign a single, unique number that would be used to identify each business in all data sources (including household surveys, for example, when listing the employer of record). This unique identifier would then give users the ability to link business registry information to data items from both employer and demographic surveys that provide data on worker characteristics, self-employment, and household-centered businesses. It would also allow the linking of business registry information to individual-level administrative records, such as those from the Social Security Administration and the Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics Program. Another benefit of a unique business identifier is its potential to help minimize respondent burden. By simply entering its one ID number, a business could update all of its information at once. In addition, creation of cross-walks between the unique business number and the current Unemployment Insurance (UI) number, along with data sharing by the state, would facilitate updating of the business list on a more timely (quarterly) basis.
Note that, as discussed earlier, what is meant by a business may differ by sector and can potentially change over time. Thus, it will be important for the register to preserve or develop indicators for the legal form and type of business entity. As part of the latter, registers should indicate franchise operations, multilevel marketing operations (e.g., Amway), joint ventures, special-purpose financial entities, and the like that are not captured by traditional “legal form of organization” indicators. It may even be necessary to allow for multiple definitions. One might also consider including additional information on ownership relations—for example, in cases in