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Standard classification systems (NAICS & SIC)

Key resources: 

  • Industry Classifications (Statistics Canada)
    Links to all editions of NAICS (1997 to the present), as well as to SIC, ISIC, and NACE classification systems. Most of the resources listed include concordances or correspondence tables between editions of a single classification system and between systems.
     
  • NAICS Codes and Understanding Industry Classification Systems (US Census Bureau)
    A useful overview of the structure of NAICS as it is used in the US Economic Census. See also their main NAICS page.
     
  • National Classification Systems (United Nations Statistics Division)
    NAICS and SIC are only common here in North America.  To learn about the systems used elsewhere, see the UNSD's list of activity, product, expenditure, and occupation systems in use by governments worldwide. 
Standard classifications systems such as the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) and the Standard Industrial Classification system (SIC) are developed by government statistical agencies as a means to group company and industry data. 

Commercial publishers may develop their own classification system, often based on a government system, and may indicate an SIC code or an NAICS code as part of a company description in a directory or database.
 
Important:
  • Subjective application: Companies are not "legally" assigned a consistent industry classification code (NAICS, SIC, or other system) that would then be used in all directories or databases. One directory will assign one code to a company, while another might chose a different code.
     
  • Multiple codes: Companies can have more than one code, depending on their activities.
     
  • Multiple classification systems: In addition, many databases and directories use more than one classification system (including proprietary ones), although NAICS tends to be the most commonly used among the databases available here at SFU.

Bottom line: Check carefully which scheme is being used by each source of information. It is important to compare "apples" to "apples" when analyzing company or industry data. Also, don't expect the same code to be used in all sources: look up a few sample companies in each source (directory, database, etc.) to see if the codes assigned to those companies have varied at all.