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I'm looking for some sort of list with all possible branches of business/employment.

i.e. "Restaurant", "Hotel", "IT", "Bakery", "Fitness Centre", "School", "Insurance", etc.

Preferably something official like a list from a government organization or tax department, but anything will help.

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You are looking for SIC codes (e.g., Used by Bureau of Labor) and NAICS codes (e.g., Used by US Census). The NAICS is gradually replacing the older SIC system. It is updated every 5 years and is developed/maintenance in conjunction with Canada and Mexico (hence the name North American Industry Classification Standard). One good place to start is at this US Census link:

https://www.census.gov/eos/www/naics/

This link has some downloadable definitions:

https://www.census.gov/cgi-bin/sssd/naics/naicsrch?chart=2012

This is the BLS link describing how they have moved away from the SIC system to NAICS:

http://www.bls.gov/bls/naics.htm

Dutch SBI System (thanks @Martjin):
http://unstats.un.org/unsd/cr/ctryreg/ctrydetail.asp?id=1182

European NACE System (thanks @Martjin):
http://epp.eurostat.ec.europa.eu/statistics_explained/index.php/Glossary:Statistical_classification_of_economic_activities_in_the_European_Community_(NACE)

United Nations ISIC (thanks @Martjin):
https://unstats.un.org/unsd/cr/registry/regcst.asp?Cl=27

  • Thanks! Through wikipedia searching I managed to track down a similar Dutch system called SBI (which is slightly more appropriate for my indented purpose): cbs.nl/nl-NL/menu/methoden/classificaties/overzicht/sbi/…, which also includes downloadable lists and is in turn based on the European NACE and United Nations' ISIC classifications (in case anybody is looking for similar information). – Martijn Mar 12 '14 at 20:57
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The official approach is already covered by Andrew.

I would add less centralised taxonomies such as Yelp. They have an API.

OpenCorporates are also looking at adding additional data to its business networks.

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