What is a Classification System

For Industry, Products, and Goods:

  • Provides a framework and structure for statistical data to be analyzed and presented in a meaningful way.
  • It also creates a common language for the collection, compilation, and analysis of this data.
  • In a global world, classification systems try to create an effective single market where macro and micro economic analysis can be used by numerous members and institutions of an economic community.

What types of classification systems are there?

Economic statistics are gathered for many purposes. The classifications range from branch classification (System of National Accounts) to classifications of economic activities (SIC, NAICS, ISIC, UKSIC, ANZSIC, NACE) to commodity and product classifications (HS, NAPCS, CPA).

  • Economic Activity – designed to categorize data relating to the activity. With this data, output and inputs to the production process (overhead, labor, materials, etc), along with capital formation and the financial transactions of those units can be analyzed.
  • Product Classifications – designed to categorize products (goods and services) that have common characteristics. This data can be analyzed to determine trends, growth, etc., in production, trade, consumption, foreign trade, and transport of products.

*The System of National Accounts (SNA) is the internationally agreed standard set of recommendations on how to compile measures of economic activity. The SNA describes a coherent, consistent and integrated set of macroeconomic accounts in the context of a set of internationally agreed concepts, definitions, classifications and accounting rules.

Classification Systems

Economic Activities Products Goods
World Level ISIC CPC HS
North America Level SIC | NAICS NAPCS NAPCS

*World Level – Compiled by the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD) in New York
*EU Level – Compiled by the Statistical Office of the European Communities (Eurostat) in Luxembourg


  • ISIC - United Nations' International Standard Industrial Classification of all Economic Activities
  • NACE - Statistical classification of economic activities in the European Communities (the acronym is derived from the French title “Nomenclature générale des Activités économiques dans les Communautés Européennes“)
  • CPC - United Nations' Central Product Classification
  • CPA - European Classification of Products by Activity
  • HS - Harmonized Commodity Description and Coding System, managed by the World Customs Organisation
  • CN - Combined Nomenclature, a European classification of goods used for foreign trade statistics
  • SITC - the United Nations' Standard International Trade Classification, an international classification of goods used for foreign trade statistics
  • PRODCOM - the classification of goods used for statistics on industrial production (mining and manufacturing) in the EU compiled by the PRODCOM committee (directly linked to CPC)