A couple of months ago I was doing a typical collection of workforce data from OnTheMap and when I shared the findings with the client she was surprised and certain that the data was overestimating the number of local workers. To have a base of comparison, I also collected data for the same trade area from ESRI Business Analyst and got numbers that were over twice as high as the ones obtained from OnTheMap. Since then, the same incident has happened with other projects: ESRI numbers have been significantly higher (sometimes over three times higher) than OnTheMap number
The other provider, ESRI Business Analyst, extracts its business data from a comprehensive list of businesses licensed from Infogroup (a commercial data provider). Their business list contains data on more than 13 million US businesses—including the business name, location, franchise code, industry classification code (both SIC and NAICS), number of employees, and sales volume— that is current as of January 2015. The most typical way of getting its workforce data is through downloading its Business Summary Report, which provides the total number of business and employees within your trade area (as well as their break-down by NAICS Codes).
In contrast with OnTheMap, ESRI data does not include density and geographic concentration of workers, nor their age, ethnicity or income distribution. The interesting feature ESRI provides is the Business and Facilities Search within its map application. The Business and Facilities Search allows you to see how many businesses there are in a particular location (i.e. your trade area) based on selected NAICS or SIC codes. Furthermore, you can download this list of businesses, which includes their number of employees and retail sales. This application is quite useful to map competitive offerings for particular business types and estimate their number of workers. The application also allows you to see the concentration of particular business types in the form of heat maps.
We like OntheMap because it gives you more detailed info on your workforce: it includes their geographic concentration within your district’s trade area as well as their age, ethnicity, industry and income distribution. Even though its data only goes until 2014, it still provides reliable numbers that can be mitigated by collecting additional data ‘on the ground’ (i.e. contacting major new employers and asking their workforce numbers as well as estimating new employment based on new square footage added through recent developments). It is a great tool to help you understand your local workforce population and estimate demand.
ESRI Business Analyst is useful in other ways. It provides you with the total number of workers and allows you to see the concentration of particular types of businesses within your trade area, instead of the concentration of workers. It is a great tool to identify business nodes within your district and help you decide where particular types of businesses would be the best fit.
It is important to note that ESRI Business Analyst has many more applications and data possibilities than the ones I’m sharing here. These are just the ones we use the most and found most useful to the work we do.