The Census Bureau released figures Thursday indicating it may have missed as many as 16 million people in its April 1 headcount of the nation's population.

Based on two studies - the post-enumeration survey (PES) and demograhic analysis - census officials said the nation's resident population could be between 262 million and nearly 265 million people. Earlier estimates put the national population at 248 million people.The resident population excludes U.S. military and federal employees stationed overseas.

"These data are not final," said Barbara Bryant, director of the Census Bureau. "We are releasing them today in an effort to continue the open discussion of the coverage of the 1990 census and whether an adjustment might imporve the accuracy of the count."

The 1990 census - which will be used for reapportioning the House of Representatives as well as the makeup of the legislatures of the states - has been sharply criticized, particularly by the nation's mayors, who claim census counters missed millions of people, especially among the poor and minorities.

A number of cities had filed suit against the bureau in an effort to force the agency to make an adjustment. Commerce Secretary Robert Mosbacher must decide by July 15 whether to make an adjustment to correct for either an overcount or undercount.

Bryant said the new state-by-state estimates released Thursday are just one step in the bureau's continuing analysis of the 1990 count and yet another, more definitive set of figures will be released next month.

Census Bureau officials warned that "no definitive conclusions" about the distribution of any undercount or overcount should be drawn from the new set of figures.

The PES survey was based on interviews with people in 165,000 housing units who were then matched against census records to determine whether they were counted in the 1990 census.