To use some sources you will need a NAICS or SIC code for your industry.
North American Industry Classification System
The NAIC System assigns numerical codes to industries from two to six digits. Shorter codes represent broader industry sectors. Be sure to read the full description of the NAICS code, as it may include a broader array of products/services than you might assume.
Standard Industrial Classification Manual (at OSHA site)
The SIC system assigns numerical codes to industries from two to four digits. Shorter codes represent broader industry sectors. Be sure to read the full description of the SIC code, as it often includes a broader array of products/services than you might assume.
This info often isn’t easy to find.
You may find it in industry overviews, market research reports, government statistics sources, industry association publications, SEC filings, investment analysis,or articles.
Keep in mind that there may be variation in the terms used to describe these. For instance, instead of “industry growth rate” they may talk about the expected size of the market or may give other specific relevant statistics—such as yearly sales totals for the industry.
Start with these. Often an S&P Industry Survey will have exactly what you need.
If your product or service is covered by Mintel, there is a good chance that a Mintel market research report has statistics you could use--but Mintel does not research every industry/ product. The Statistical Abstract is a good place to look for industry statistics from the U.S. government (sometimes it has stats from associations or other sources too.)
To use some sources, you may first need to find a NAICS code for your industry. See links in box at left to find these.
If these sources don't work, try more sources using the green tabs at left to research sources from the census bureau and/or market research firm web sites. The last tab takes you to the Industry Research Guide which offers more sources of industry info (including associations & articles).
Sometimes finding statistics on industries is difficult. Here are some reasons why:
Statistics can be Difficult to Search For
Keyword searches often aren't effective in finding statistics. Often you need to get librarian advice on good places to look for statistics and often you need to browse the source rather than search by keyword.
Industry Definitions Can Vary
Sometimes the industry you are interested in matches the industry as defined by key sources or as defined by the U.S. government's NAICS classification. Unfortunately, sometimes you are interested in a specific segment of an industry and the first sources you check might define the industry in a way that doesn't suit your purposes.
Availability of Statistics
Investment related sources like the Standard & Poor's Surveys may not include industries that are made up primarily of private companies.
The U.S. government is often a source of free high quality statistics, but sometimes they don't offer the right statistics for your project. Or the statistics may be available only for a broad industry category that includes much more than the product/service you are investigating.
Market research reports can offer good industry statistics, but these are usually expensive. Sometimes you can find a few stats in the descriptions of market research reports that are for sale.
Industry associations may gather relevant statistics. Sometimes these are free on the association web site--but in some cases, statistics are only available to members or in publications that are for sale.
Statistics found in articles may lack information about the source of the statistics, so that it's difficult to obtain more details or to evaluate the quality of the information.
It's Common to Misunderstand or Misuse Statistics
It's important to take time to examine statistics sources carefully and look for answers to questions like these:
Specific examples of misunderstandings/misuse:
Some of the free investment web sites may offer industry statistics created using a limited set of public companies. If there are also many private companies in that industry, the industry statistics given may not represent the overall industry.
Some industries are classified using NAICS codes that group together a very diverse array of products/services--esp the "not elsewhere classfied" categories. Look closely at the description of a NAICS code before you assume that it is measuring only your product/service.
Some Sources are More Reliable than Others
How do you know if it's a good source?
Reliable sources often explain where the data comes from and may even include information on the methods used to create the statistics.
Your professor or a librarian may be able to point you to a source that is considered reliable.
S&P Industry Surveys often give names of reliable sources that are used by industry players.