History of NAICS Codes

The current edition of the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) is the 2017 release by the United States Census Bureau. At present, there are 20 sectors and 1,057 industries in 2017 NAICS United States.  In 1997, U.S. statistical agencies began implementation of a change from the Standard Industrial Classification System (SIC) to NAICS.

Statistical Usage Evolution from SIC to NAICS

In 1937, the Central Statistical Board established an Interdepartmental Committee on Industrial Classification ''to develop a plan of classification of various types of statistical data by industries and to promote the general adoption of such classification as the standard classification of the Federal Government.''

The List of Industries for Manufacturing, a predecessor to SIC Codes, was first available in 1938, with the List of Industries for Nonmanufacturing following in 1939. These Lists of Industries became the first Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) for the United States. Since the inception in the 1930’s, the SIC Code system was periodically revised by the U.S. Government to reflect the economy's changing industrial composition and organization. The last government revision of SIC Codes was in 1987, however private agencies and companies have continuously updated the system for marketing and targeting purposes to the current time. 

-See History of SIC Codes 

Beginning of NAICS

In 1991, an International Conference on the Classification of Economic Activities was convened in Williamsburg, Virginia, to provide a forum to explore new approaches to classifying economic activity. In July 1992, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) established the Economic Classification Policy Committee (ECPC). On March 31, 1993, OMB published a Federal Register notice (58 FR 16990-17004) announcing the intention to revise the SIC for 1997 and the process for revising the SIC. In July 1994, OMB announced plans to develop a new industry classification system in cooperation with Mexico's INEGI and Statistics Canada.The ECPC prepared a number of issue papers regarding classification, and consulted with outside users. The ECPC ultimately joined with Mexico's Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Geografía e Informática (now the Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía) (INEGI) and Statistics Canada to develop the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), which aimed to replace the 1987 U.S. SIC and the classification systems of Canada (1980 SIC) and Mexico (1994 Mexican Classification of Activities and Products (CMAP)).

The U.S. Census Bureau issued a notice, Federal Register, Volume 62, No. 68, on April 9, 1997, making NAICS effective in the U.S.  This was followed by the first published U.S. NAICS manual in mid-1998. Due to the dynamic nature of world economies, the creators of NAICS agreed that the classification system should be reviewed every five years, and revised as appropriate to reflect the changing economies of the three countries. The U.S. statistical programs implemented NAICS for the first time in 1997. NAICS was revised in 2002, 2007, and 2012. Under NAICS, many activities previously classified as Manufacturing, Wholesale Trade, or Retail Trade were re-classified into the Services sector. In the design of NAICS, attention was given to developing production-oriented classifications for:

  • new and emerging industries
  • service industries in general, and 
  • industries engaged in the production of advanced technologies.

NAICS Today and Beyond

The current 2017 NAICS revision was undertaken to achieve one main goal—to modify or create industries to reflect new, emerging, or changing activities and technologies. The impact of NAICS on various countries has brought about a renewed effort for additional convergence with the many industry classifications used throughout the world. Future revisions of NAICS will continue to strive for greater global comparability. The next revision is scheduled for 2022.