My Two Census

Formerly the non-partisan watchdog of the 2010 US Census, and currently an opinion blog that covers all things political, media, foreign policy, globalization, and culture…but sometimes returning to its census/demographics roots.

EXCLUSIVE: Former NYT Reporter Exposes Census’ Mishandling of Operations

By Laura Mansnerus

Well, the census job in Philadelphia is over. They hired way too many of us. We finished a couple months ahead of schedule. They trained people for a week so that they could work for two weeks. We all miss the paychecks we thought we’d have. The Census Bureau goofed. Does Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke know this? Probably not.

My census job was a total accident. This winter, I was on hiatus from my career in the dying newspaper industry, having left my job to take a fellowship that, of course, came to an end. When I regained consciousness, the whole publishing industry was staggering toward a cliff. Uh-oh.

In January, I was prowling on Craigslist — and the Census Bureau was recruiting for the address canvassing phase of the 2010 Census: Work 20 to 40 hours a week for 10 to 12 weeks.

And before long I was a “crew leader,” hired at $19.25 an hour to supervise canvassers, known as listers, who would be verifying every address in my district of Philadelphia. All over the nation, listers would be updating maps and address lists so the bureau would know where to send questionnaires for the 2010 Census. Fine.

I loved the prospect of spending springtime on the streets while putting off a hideous job search. Moreover, I tend to believe that the public sector does important things, even though I once worked for the E.P.A., one of the worst government agencies known to mankind. The census is a worthy undertaking. The Constitution told us to do it! So I walked into this job with a pretty sunny outlook.

The crew leaders started in March. We were told we’d be working into June. The official deadline for the address canvassing operation, I learned later, is early July.

In my chunk of Philadelphia, seven of us crew leaders were trained the first week, and the next week we trained assistant crew leaders. The third week, each of us would train about 15 listers. Then we would parcel out “assignment areas,” or AA’s, smaller districts with 300 or so addresses each, to the listers.

My supervisor, Ian Hemphill, said we would be all working all-out, full-time and furiously, because the Philadelphia region was behind schedule. It took me a week and a half to start wondering about this. The crew leaders and assistants had already knocked out a few assignment areas. Even fumbling with the balky software on our little hand-held computers, you could finish an AA in a day. My district had 90 AA’s left to assign. I’d have 15 listers.

“Ian, am I missing something?” I asked him when he called a meeting of the crew leaders. “I have 90 AA’s left, and they’re sending me 15 listers. That’s 6 per lister.”

“Oh, ho, I think your math is a little off there,” Ian said.

“Wellllll, I have 90 AA’s, divided by 15, and that’s 6.”

“Let’s get our terms straight here. Six per what? Six per day? Per week?”

Another crew leader, a quiet young guy headed for graduate school, entered the conversation: “SIX … for … the … rest … of … the … entire … operation.”

We could finish the whole thing in a week. Given some slow listers and half-functioning computers, it would take two weeks. But Ian was not persuaded. We all went home.

Wait, I said to myself. The Census Bureau was about to screw a bunch of barely employed people. They had been told they would work until June. They wouldn’t. Worse, this is the agency charged with sophisticated demographic analyses for government and business throughout the nation — no, the world — and with 10 years’ planning time the people running it didn’t know how long it takes x listers to verify y addresses? I had a supervisor who couldn’t divide 90 by 15?

I went to Google News. All around the country, newspapers were running friendly features as address canvassing started in their communities. The Census Bureau, as many of these reporters had copied from its press releases, hired 140,000 people to verify 145 million addresses. Ooops. So they were doing this everywhere. They hired one person for each 1,000 addresses. In Philadelphia they had hired one per 2,000 or so addresses. How long could that take?

The next week, while our listers were chewing through AA’s, Ian trained a second wave of listers who would serve (if needed) as replacements. Meanwhile, we were encouraged to fire people wherever possible. I did not fire anyone. I got two more listers. I got 19 in all, though one was fired because he had failed the security check. (When the local Census authorities learned this, he was already on the job — your federal security clearance dollars at work! — so I had to confiscate his computer and badge immediately while we were out on the street. But that’s another story…)

They people who were hired were top scorers on the same test I had taken. Some had not worked for months and were hugely relieved to have jobs, any jobs. They took their mission very, very seriously. We got lost in discussions about how to treat houses that appeared to be abandoned or buildings that might be divided into illegal apartments, even though our supervisors did not want us to spend much time on concerns like this.

The listers were in their second week on the job when the AA’s dried up. My big crew leader map was plastered with check marks. The listers had put in their first full day on April 3, and most were on their last AA’s when the crew leaders were summoned to headquarters on April 15. The assistant manager for field operations, a mild sort named Wayne Wolfgang, who seemed to be trying to do the right thing, announced, “There’s rumors out there that we’re running out of work.” Not true, he said. “We have a lot of opportunities to move people around. We still have work for everybody.”

Since the crew leaders had been instructed not to open our mouths at this meeting, we didn’t. The office manager distributed a memo from the regional director, Fernando Armstrong, stressing the importance of meeting deadlines. Attached was a warning about driving safely, and anticipating hazards like black ice and moose. We were supposed to pass these out to our listers. And we did! You’re out of work, but if you had any, you should watch for moose on Washington Avenue!

Ian wanted us crew leaders to tell people, “We will find you work.” I ventured, “I’m telling them, ‘we might find you more work.’” Ian got mad. “No! We WILL find you work!”

Nothing materialized, though. Listers who needed to reopen their unemployment claims asked if the Census Bureau would provide letters to certify that they were out of work. No, The Census Bureau wouldn’t do such things.

Many people had passed up other temp jobs or even quit jobs to take jobs with the Census Bureau. “What am I going to do?” said one middle-aged woman whose other job was passing out samples at a liquor store a few hours a week. “I don’t know what I’m going to do,” she said, six or seven times. She gave me phone numbers of a couple market research firms that convened focus groups.

Others just wandered away. A few called or visited the office to deliver a piece of their minds. This was to be avoided at all costs. Keep them away from us, the last text message from Ian said. It also said, “Congratulate Listers [sic] on a quick accomplishment of their mission. Stress the positive. Stress the value of a period of federal employment with the possibility of recommendations.”

Today was my last day. I turned in the equipment I’d gathered up from listers, and on the way out of the office I saw Wayne Wolfgang. I asked him a question: “Why did the Census Bureau hire 20 people, including me, to do 97 AA’s?”

“Well, that was the number he was given by headquarters,” he said.

There was no mistake. We finished early. So what?

Wolfgang, apparently looking for congratulations until the end, said, “Did it ever occur to you that we’re efficient?”

“No,” I said.

Laura Mansnerus was an editor and staff reporter at The New York Times for 22 years. She was a 2007 Soros media justice fellow. She is also a no-longer-practicing lawyer.

Note: This article does not represent the opinions of MyTwoCensus.com, Stephen Robert Morse or Evan Goldin. The views expressed are those of the author. That said, MyTwoCensus welcomes written, video, photographic, and multimedia contributions from any individual with a 2010 Census-related story to tell.

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53 Responses to “EXCLUSIVE: Former NYT Reporter Exposes Census’ Mishandling of Operations”

  1. Lisa Says:

    I, too, am wrapping up as an address-canvassing crew leader. I’m not sure I’ll ever trust Census data again. As for the numbers they’re hiring: Perhaps the Bureau did not adequately anticipate how much the handheld computers would increase efficiency. That said, I have a hunch that the Bureau wants to hire as many people as possible to boost its employment numbers–as part of its overall PR (giving back to the community by providing jobs, etc.). How else to explain paid training for so many for so little actual work? As we wrap up the first phase of canvassing, I have plenty of good listers hungry for more work, but the bureau isn’t re-assigning them. It’s hiring and training new people to canvass group living quarters (which are canvassed separately from separate living quarters). Why not keep using people who already know how to use the handhelds and have a basic understanding of the canvassing operation? We were driven hard in our area to finish way ahead of schedule. Our supervisors were all eager to impress higher-ups in order to secure new assignments for themselves. But their concern for the listers? Zero.

  2. David Silva Says:

    I’m a newly former enumerator in the San Francisco Bay Area. The Philadelphia experience is apparently universal. I was told that the census planners expected a 75% worker attrition rate but instead we stuck with our relatively well-paying jobs and ended up completing all the assignment areas much sooner than expected. The explanation is plausible but personally this is a big disappointment. Now we’re all vying for a handful of open supervisory jobs.

  3. Linda Says:

    Another “efficient” lister who cleared my schedule, including passing on a family wedding, for what I hoped was two months of steady, part-time work. From the start, I thought 40 hours of training for an 8-week clerical job was overkill, and it turned out to be a 3-week job. On the last two days, the upper management applied enormous pressure to finish the operation by the end of the week. Why?

  4. My Two Census » Blog Archive » URGENT: Does a policy change from the Census Bureau encourage the spread of Swine Flu? Says:

    [...] after MyTwoCensus broke the story that Census Bureau “listers” have finished their jobs way ahead of schedule (and were [...]

  5. Anonymous CL Says:

    I was given the impression that there *will* be a priority to rehire workers from earlier stages for later stages. However, some things to keep in mind:

    1. The group quarters stage isn’t scheduled to start for another 2-4 months, so there will be some downtime (now more downtime than there should’ve been, since this stage finished early).

    2. The group quarters stage, and all other stages except the big one (non-response follow-up in 2010), will use fewer people than the address canvassing stage did, so there won’t be anywhere near enough room to ‘re-up’ everyone who wants to work more, until a year from now.

    3. There are a lot of gaps in the communication chain, so some office staff will tell you contradictory/confusing things about what’s going to happen when and who will be rehired for what; some even just admit they have no idea. (I only know as much as I do because I am very adept at doing online research, and spent quite a few hours digging up stuff to piece together from the bowels of the Census Bureau site and elsewhere; and there’s some timeline specifics that still haven’t been exactly nailed down.)

    4. There is a new training session required for each stage of the operation (address canvassing, group quarters, etc). The training manuals only cover one stage. There are many things that carry over, of course, so workers rehired from earlier stages should learn faster/easier, but there is a lot of new training material to be covered for each stage. (The week of training is necessary, but there was supposed to be more weeks of work for each person after each training.)

    5. Their hiring process is not perfectly implemented. Some offices ignore/overlook/don’t bother entering some of the data on the employment forms, and/or enter some of it inaccurately. So even if they have a halfway-decent rehiring procedure planned, I wouldn’t be surprised if they might not follow it very consistently.

    Regarding the security clearance issue mentioned in the article, what probably happened was that the disqualification was from the results of the fingerprint check. The initial background check is done immediately after the applicant takes the test; it takes about 2 weeks to get the results from it, but they didn’t call people with job offers until at least 2 weeks after they took the test, so anyone disqualified from that background check shouldn’t have still been in the pool to be called. But fingerprints aren’t taken until the first day of training, so if someone who didn’t get caught in the first check gets caught on the fingerprint check, they might have already finished training and started the real working by the time the fingerprint results come back.

  6. Anonymous2 Says:

    I am also a CL and we began production today. I have about 100 AA’s and 18 listers.

    One of my listers was bitten by a dog and all my boss asked is “is she still working”. It’s all about production…

    The computer system employed is positively BRAIN DEAD. You have to file a PAPER report whenever you add or delete a housing unit.

    I think what frustrates me the most is that the maps in the hand held computers are often wildly inaccurate, even in well established areas. Why does Google have accurate maps and the census bureau doesn’t?

  7. egs Says:

    Well, maybe they were expecting all of you to work on the “government time clock”…all of you were far too efficient!!!

  8. Anonymous Super Lister Says:

    Ditto to all of this for us in the Midwest. The planning of this is quite the government snafu. We were told by our supervisor last week (at the end of a full two weeks of work), that we were virtually out of assignments and most of us would be dead in the water by early this week. We were also told they were actually finishing another training class right then! So those people will be getting paid for one week of training and no work. Many, many people were counting on at least 6-8 weeks of work, I even figured it might take 4-6 weeks based on the first weeks projections, but this is crazy! Our supervisor (actually a great guy), a person of color, was offered the supervisory position without taking the supervisors test! Is this legal even for the government? He also was a retiree with no computer experience what-so-ever, and really only wanted to be a lister to have something to do. An obvious affirmative action hire. There were at least 4 of us in the crew that had extensive and successful corporate management experience, extensive computer skills in multiple platforms, had managed and trained large groups of people, and had scored high on the test, and we were all relegated to lister status and were happy to have the work! Our supervisor was even bashing the quality of the “on-staff” full-time governement workers back at the office as being virtually unhireable in the corporate community! Ahhh, the government moves in strange and mysterious ways….

  9. ANNE ONYMOUS Says:

    Hello,

    Well, it is a universal experience, mine is somewhat worse than others, since my CL seemed to have a clash with me from the outset and has twice threatened my job, I now feel to perhaps extend her own?

    I worked on the 200O and was so happy to get the call to come and work on the 2010.

    Does anyone know if we are entitled to SEE the evaluations taken on us by the CL and CLA? We had ONE meeting and some got to see their evals, I did NOT get to see mine. I’ve also been told I should “NEVER HAVE BEEN HIRED” because in my other life I do work for a private agency caretaking and that makes me a “MANDATED REPORTER”– according to one of my “superiors” the head honcho told her I should NEVER have been hired, but my identity “wasn’t disclosed” — I find it hard to accept. If so it should be asked on the application. The example in the enumerator handbook covers “Police Officers…Social Workers…Town Officials…”
    The example provides that the public at large might be aware of their other line of work, and so be disinclined to share information with them.
    I understand the confidentiality oath. I do not feel there is a conflict with my being a caretaker and an enumerator and up until NOW, there never seemed to be one.
    I feel I’m getting a very raw deal and that I won’t get selected for continued work, though I am competent and love this job.
    Anyone having a similar experience? Principles over personalities should be the rule, but it doesn’t seem to be this go round. My last CL and I got along great, wish she were back this year. I try to get along with this CL, but she’ll act nice one day and then sucker punch ya, so to speak.

  10. rkintn Says:

    At least you got called and were able to work! I scored over 100%(because of vet preference) on my test and I know the background wasn’t a problem (I work for a school systme and just completed a background check!) and was NEVER called for any kind of work at all. That tells me that there were alot of folks looking for jobs here too. I’ve seen a couple of the address checkers out and about but no more than two.

  11. ANNE ONYMOUS Says:

    A COUPLE MORE COMMENTS

    To Laura– Thank you so much for getting the word out about the VERY limited duration of work for so many people, relative to what we’re told at the start.

    To the person who feels it was unfair that their supervisor didn’t have computer experience, or managerial experience and possibly? never had to be tested? I seriously doubt that anyone is hired without testing, sorry.
    AND since my crew leader actually made a racist comment while training the entirely white team, much to my chagrin, I suspect it all balances out. Enjoy the fact that as you say you’re working with a “great guy” — wish I could say the same. I’m working with a capricious and unpredictable supervisor, and trust me, it isn’t pleasant feeling like you’re on the chopping block all the time, because the CL just doesn’t like you and likely will do anything they can to ensure you don’t get to come back, ONLY because they don’t like you.

  12. Anonymous Super Lister Says:

    To Anne Onymous, I was the person that said our CL never took the supervisor test. Sorry to you, but he TOLD us that directly, he had only taken the listers test, and they called him to be a CL, which he didn’t want, but felt if he turned it down, he might not get anything. He is and was a great CL, and actually sounds better than almost anyone else’s experience as recounted here, he realized in the first week that no one was going to be working 12 weeks, and told us “off the record”.

  13. Just another QC CL Says:

    I’m QC CL and believe my crew still has a few weeks of work due to some undocumented features of the HHC. I think the management at my ELCO is trying their best but they haven’t been in the field for an entire day with an HHC, their production reports focus on AA’s instead of LQ’s an DV’s, and whenever one puts a team together with such diverse backgrounds for an intense short-term project, there’s bound to be communications problems. Just as I am not aware of the demands of their jobs at the top level, they aren’t involved with the granularity of situations encountered as my crew canvasses one house at a time.

    In short, I told my crew of a space shuttle sent into orbit a few years back with a broken toilet and that the shuttle had to recycle air for all 10 days of it’s voyage. We’re in the same boat and using government equipment assembled by the lowest bidder. At least we don’t have the air they did; those astronauts could no more roll down the windows than we can fix our HHC’s. And we, as astronauts, cannot adequately explain the problem of our situation to ground control as they are not breathing the same air.

    I asked them to march forward, do their best, and those above will attend to the situation to their best ability. We were recently rewarded with a software patch that seems to be clearing the air.

    I have a great crew! Despite the challenges, they were never deterred and found reason to laugh regardless of having many reasons to cry.

  14. Anonymous CL Says:

    Nobody hired as Crew Leaders had to take the ‘Supervisor Test’, even though they are supervising enumerators. They only use it for supervisors above a certain level.

    There’s the D-270 ‘Supervisor Test’ (sometimes also called the ‘Managerial Test’), which is much more limited on when/how often it’s offered compared to the ‘Field Employee Test’. This test is used for people applying (with the addition of a full government job application OF-612) for the limited numbers of higher-level supervisory positions that manage the local offices (only one of each of these positions per office — 151 are already open as “Early Local Census Offices”; once the rest of them all open over the next six months, there will be a total of 494):
    - Local Census Office Manager (LCOM)
    - Assistant Manager for Administration (AMA)
    - Assistant Manager for Field Operations (AMFO)
    - Assistant Manager for Quality Assurance (AMQA)
    - Assistant Manager for Recruiting (AMR)
    - Assistant Manager for Technology (AMT)
    It appears that the mid-level supervisors (Field Operations Supervisors and Office Operations Supervisors) also have to take the ‘Supervisor Test’.

    And there’s the D-267 ‘Field Employee Test’, which is the test people take for most jobs:
    - Crew Leaders
    - Crew Leader Assistants
    - Enumerators
    - Office Clerks and Administrative Assistants, with the addition of a full government job application (OF-612)

    Generally the Crew Leaders were picked for that job instead of Enumerators because they got higher scores on the test (which did include a few supervisory-related questions) and indicated on their application form that they had supervisory experience. But the Census hiring process is not always consistently followed, so some selections may be inexplicable.

  15. Anonymous CL Says:

    In response to “Anne Onymous”:
    > “Does anyone know if we are entitled to SEE the evaluations taken on us by the CL and CLA? We had ONE meeting and some got to see their evals, I did NOT get to see mine.”

    I don’t recall ever seeing/hearing any instructions that the evaluations (‘observation checklists’) should or should not be shown to the enumerator being evaluated. It apparently was left up to the CLs to do however they wanted, unless some Field Operations Supervisors chose to specify.

    It probably would’ve been better to require sharing the results with the enumerators. They could’ve even made those forms be carbon-copy-paper so that the enumerators could each be given a copy to refer back to, to see the checklist of what they should be doing, and the results of what they’re doing right and what they should try to improve. But that didn’t happen.

  16. ANNE ONYMOUS Says:

    Where I live there is legislation that gives one the right to see any sort of evaluation conducted that becomes part of a personnel file. However, I’m unsure that it would apply to a Federal job. I think it should be an absolute right of any employee to access what is said about them and kept on record by an employer. It sort of defeats the purpose of evaluations, if there is an area seen as “needing improvement” and the employee does not get to be privy to it. My concern is that I may have been treated unfairly, if so, I should have some sort of mechanism to put an objection into writing and get that into the file, too. Not right.

  17. ANNE ONYMOUS Says:

    To Anonymous Superlister:
    I was aware that the CL and CLA were not required to take a “Supervisor Exam” and that they were chosen out of the pool of would-be Enumerators.
    When I read your post, I thought you meant that he had not even taken THAT test, which I found hard to accept. He took the same test you did.
    Our group wasn’t even allowed to know their test scores, but we were told that there were thousands of applicants, and that we all scored 100, or more, with Veteran’s Preference.
    With your managerial experience, you really should look into taking the other test and possibly getting an opportunity to stay employed. There are a lot of Local Census Office Manager jobs where I live. I am unqualified for those jobs, but you and some of your fellow former listers might be lucky enough to land one. The CL’s and CLA’s are more like glorified enumerators, they make slightly more money, and work a few more days than the rest of us. I am not sure how they make the picks of who gets to be the CL and CLA and who will be the enumerators. It seems sort of arbitrary, there were plenty of people on the team, who many of us would have preferred to see in charge of our team. One guy in particular had high intelligence, a fantastic sense of humor, and seemed to know as much about the operation as our fearless leaders ; )

  18. ANNE ONYMOUS Says:

    Anonymous CL writes that you have to file an INFO-COMM anytime you add or delete an address. Hope not. We were not required to file them unless there was a map problem, or some other unusual situation, adds and deletions, weren’t included in that. The problem I encountered with the Harris, was the lack of options, which THEN required the INFO-COMMS. For example situations were you could not access a house or view it from the road, due to a locked gate leading to the home, where you knew from others a house existed, or that there was a development in the process of being built, which does require map spotting. It is just assinine that those situations can’t be managed on the Harris.

  19. Anonymous CL Says:

    (To clarify, Anne Onymous’s 8:34am post was in reply to “Anonymous2″, not “Anonymous CL”.) Yes, unfortunately there are quite a few oversights/omissions in the software programming.

    Anne Onymous (re: 8:16 am post), I don’t have my manuals anymore, but there might have been a section somewhere about grievance procedures. You might want to try looking into that – try calling your local office about it if you can’t find the info or don’t have your manuals anymore too.

  20. Anonymous Super Lister Says:

    To Anne Onymous. Hi Again, thanks for the clarification. When I was talking about the 4 of us in the crew with extensive experience, I was also referring to the fact that we all took BOTH tests, and had scored high on both, and had to submit a full resume with additional references for contact! None of us heard anything again, none of our references were ever contacted, and none of us was able to contact anyone at the local office. Just calling there and trying to get through the brain dead government full-timers was was a treat, and none of us could ever do it. I have a feeling that almost every office was run differently by whatever full time staff was there. Our CL dreaded even having to go there for anything and deal with the people. When it comes to additional positions and all that, I have a idea that they took the first people off the piles of candidates and hired up who they needed to, they never compared them between each other for the MOST qualified. If we weren’t depending on the income, it’d all be funny…sort of…

  21. Anonymous CL Says:

    Re: Anonymous Super Lister: “took BOTH tests, and had scored high on both, and had to submit a full resume with additional references for contact! None of us heard anything again, none of our references were ever contacted, and none of us was able to contact anyone at the local office.”

    If you did the managerial-level test/application when your area’s Early Local Census Office was already open (the one you tried calling and couldn’t get answers from – most of these opened in Fall 2008, after hiring people in Summer 2008), then there weren’t going to be any more managerial-level jobs available until it’s time to hire managers for the additional LCOs that open later, unless one of the managers quit partway through and had to be replaced.

    So that’s probably why you hadn’t heard anything. The job postings just now went up *yesterday* on the Census Regional Office jobs pages (the Regional Offices are the big ones that oversee several states), to accept applications until the end of May 2009 for all the management positions for the 343 additional LCOs that will be opening in Summer/Fall 2009. If you were interested in the Office Operations Supervisor level positions, I don’t think those will be hired until after the Asst Managers are.

    If you were interested in an LCOM/Asst Manager position, I suggest that you find your region’s page, ensure you provided every single detail requested in the pdf posted for that job, and consider resubmitting your application packet so that they know you’re still interested. Your previous score on the Supervisor Test will still be valid, but if you got less than 100% you could also try to re-take it for a higher score. If you have questions about getting considered for these positions, you’d probably be better off calling your Regional Office instead of your Early LCO, since I don’t think they would handle the hiring for these positions.

  22. Anne Onymous Says:

    Lisa, writes:
    “I have plenty of good listers hungry for more work, but the bureau isn’t re-assigning them. It’s hiring and training new people to canvass group living quarters (which are canvassed separately from separate living quarters). Why not keep using people who already know how to use the handhelds and have a basic understanding of the canvassing operation? We were driven hard in our area to finish way ahead of schedule. Our supervisors were all eager to impress higher-ups in order to secure new assignments for themselves. But their concern for the listers? Zero.”

    Sounds like something to report to WASTE AND INEFFICIENCY DEPT? RIGHT?
    It is a completely OBSCENE waste of human resources that has, and is going on. I’m done with my “job” that lasted for a small fraction of the time I had been LED to think it would last. Clothing bills and car repairs later, I wonder, was this part of stimulus plan for retailers?

  23. Soon Ex-Census CL Says:

    I was also hired as a CL for the census in the Midwest. I was originally assigned 15 crew members. The training went surprisingly well (reading to the group for 4 days straight). Once my people hit the street I saw right away that we would be done way before the projected 8 week mark. After week one we were at 20%. i called for a group meeting and told my listers to SLOW down. The outlier report flags anyone doing over or under 8 addresses an hour. I think that was what the government thought the average would be… ridiculous–knowing we can do well over 20 houses in any town! My district is a mix of urban and very rural, I was given 243 AA’s. I am still holding on to about 15. The AMFO in the office is VERY pissed at me. He wants to impress the regional office by coming in ‘under budget’. He has sent my supervisor nasty Emails about getting my numbers up and projecting a ‘completion’ date. It has turned into a race. Our area wants to beat out the other states/regions that are being tracked by the same regional office. There is no consideration for the people working and the jobs. Even after the HUGE PR campaign about employing so many people. They sent me 8 new people to help get my area done. All I have left are huge rural AA’s and nobody is powering through them. We aren’t stupid, we know that when it’s done so are our jobs. From what I can tell all workers will all be put back into the same hiring pool with all the original applicants (who were hired not only on test score but also by where they live/or claimed to live on the application.)nobody seems to know what or when the next phase is.
    It is the AMFO who is pressuring us to get done. no more concern for quality. Just wants to come up under budget. and completing before other regions. To note, the AMFO will still have a job. and probably a bonus if under budget. OOhh government.
    And please, any advise on what to tell the AMFO as I will be contacting him next week RE: the Emails threatening my work… not even my work, my entire group!

  24. CL SNAFU Says:

    At first having been assigned 130 AAs and over 30,000 addresses seemed like a daunting task. They gave me five days of training plus two in the field, then another five days training my CLA, then another five days training my 16 listers. It turns out we’re eating through these AAs much faster than I thought, and yet I’m being pressured to produce even faster. We were told that the address canvassing phase would be over by July 3rd, but it looks like we’ll finish by the end of May. If it weren’t for those darn Info-Comms, and the changing requirements regarding them, we’d be through even sooner, so I guess we should be happy to have to fill them out.

    During CL training we were told to expect a 25% lister dropout rate during training and another 25% once we got in the field. Instead we lost 3 CLs (1 for lateness, one to a real job, one couldn’t keep up) and not only do I have my original 16 but one new addition yesterday.

    The office staff keeps losing some of my listers’ forms and I have to get new ones, get new signatures and drive them to the ELCO. Unfortunately some of the lost forms are for Direct Deposit of their pay.

    Silver lining: now I’m pretty good at fingerprinting. And I know the central part of my county like the back of my foot.

  25. Outta my Census Says:

    I’m a CL for the Quality Control part of the Address Canvassing operation in California. We have also finished our work way earlier than estimated. This is not good news for all those expecting the work they were promised, of course, but I wonder if there is a more fundamental deception at work here. Is the result of our work anywhere near an accurate count of addresses?
    Here’s a question for CLs who have been assigning work on the HHC… Have you ever unassigned an AA (for “normal workload distribution” as the reason) and then NOT chosen to re-assign it to another lister immediately? When you DO re-assign it, what does it look like? Do you even know? I have a theory about the the assumptions that the HHC and the reporting software make, but can’t be sure as it’s late in the game. The CL manual has a curiously simplistic take on this task. What have YOU noticed?

  26. anonymous Says:

    All I know is that after 3 weeks of work and a week of training, I still have a job, and i’ve mapspotted over 2000 places in around 100 hours of work over 10+ AAs. Now, the first CL we had got fired during training, and the current one is still around even if he sounds like Lumbergh.

    The HHC is fine, the fingerprint scanner is super-annoying and probably defective on my device. I know to NEVER let it go to sleep while at work. I don’t trust it to read my fingerprint correctly. Other than that, 40% of the time, it works every time. Plus I get the fun of improvising clockwise routes when the block has an inaccurate border (street going over the railroad tracks when it doesn’t, non-existent street).

    The reality of the job ending early isn’t entirely pleasant, but the sooner I get away from the clunky crapgadget, the better.

  27. Soon Ex-Census CL Says:

    I was ‘released’ today as a result of low production. I guess 80% in 3 weeks is too slow. Guessing the crew will be done by Friday but I was told i was done today. Probably a blessing in disguise since i can’t agree with the bi-polar decisions of this organization. Nice planning too, since i setup the return of the material/HHC’s already and i won’t be there or sharing with my FOS those plans… it’s now confidential. Maybe my enumerators can get a couple extra miles or hours in sorting through the mess.

  28. B Says:

    The data that the Census Bureau used when hiring was based on the previous census (a time when the unemployment rate was lower) and they only expected people to work 20-30 hours a week. This should have been made clear when you were hired, it was in my area. Many Listers decided to work 40 hours a week and the Census Bureau was fine with that. The problem was not that the Census Bureau didn’t plan propery it was that people wanted work work a 40 hour week, which is fine but when you are hired to do a job that is temp and then you put in more hours per week that what was planned you have put yourself out of a job. The reality is that even though your areas are finishing early, you have still used the same number of hours that was originally projected to complete the operation.

  29. QC Anywhere USA Says:

    B, we were told from the beginning that we were *expected* to work 35-40 hours per week, and to be available pretty much every day of the week. We were also told that we would be working into June. A couple of weeks ago I was told (mid-week) that I would be released that week if I could not guarantee 40 hours that week. I was working another project at the same time, so I had to put in some 11-12 hour days. I would have allocated my time that week differently had I known that this was coming down. Needless to say, that schedule became quite grueling.

  30. Midwest Anon Says:

    B. When we applied we were told we could work part or full time as long as we put in atleast 20 hrs. After we got going a couple weeks, my CL got told to push the part timers into shooting for full time. These were retired older gentlemen!

    As much as I loved my CL and CLA (they are very nice people!) I couldn’t see how they got the job. Their lack of teaching and computer skills surprised me. I think perhaps TPTB (the powers that be) didn’t want someone in the CL positions that would question things too much. They wanted someone easy to push around. My CL was done before we were. I am not sure if it was his choice or not. He said he would never be CL again only maybe lister or QC work.

  31. QC CL Says:

    Midwest Anon, unfortunately I don’t think that much thought went into who would be CLs.

    I was chosen for who knows what reason. I may have scored decently on the test. My CLA was a very nice hard working retired man, who did anything I asked of him.

    But there were several other more tech savvy people I would have rather had as CLA. As there were no interviews, I don’t think the recruiting people could make choices based on peoples’ personalities.

  32. Midwest Anon Says:

    I agree QC CL. I would have probably done well testing for the job but didn’t know if I could have done the job and would have probably caved under the pressure from above since I have never done supervision.

  33. Stephen Robert Morse Says:

    As the founder and editor of MyTwoCensus, I would just like to thank our thousands of readers for your comments, commentary, and continued support. Though this is obviously a niche blog, MyTwoCensus has already conducted some great investigations in our short history. We rely heavily on our wonderful readers to give us tips that can lead us to new investigations. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you are interested in helping MyTwoCensus in any way! We are always looking for contributors to help us diversify what information we can offer the public. Also, we would love feedback sent to us about what features of this site you enjoy and what features of this site could be improved.

    Many thanks,

    Stephen Robert Morse

  34. East Coast Lister Says:

    First of all, thanks for having this site, so we can tell how it really is or was, without having to put our names out there.

    There’s an issue I faced and I wonder if other people also faced it. I was collecting in a very rural block, several miles on a side, unpaved roads. Naturally, there were no gas stations or commercial buildings on this route (or several other similar routes I had). So the next day, my CL questions my mileage as not meeting the specs. I told him I just drove around the route, except for noon and mid-afternoon when I drove a couple of miles to the nearest gas station to use the john (and often to get some coffee or something while I was there). Anyhow, he asked me if I had to go that often, (twice a day! for Pete’s sake!) and that I should ‘think about’ my mileage. A friend faced this issue and was told that “boys have an easier time going in the woods.”

    After the little talking-to, I did watch my mileage. I asked people in their houses if I could use their facilities. They were great about it, but I thought it was very unprofessional of me to ask. “I’m with the U.S. gov’t, everything we do is completely confidential, and by the way, I have a personal favor to ask….” Yuck. But I did it. I “thought about” my mileage and I did it.

  35. ex-ELCO employee Says:

    Just to clarify things from the ELCO side:

    The CL and CLA come from the same pool as listers. They’re selected based on the fact that they live in the area, can work 40 hours a week, and have the highest adjusted test score (considering veteran preference).

    Now, the personnel management system that the applications are entered into does not completely reflect the paper application. There is no place to enter the “supervisory experience” question, so that’s not even a consideration. Also, your available hours total is calculated solely based on the check boxes where you select what times you are available to work. There is no place to enter the number you actually write as the total hours you are willing to work. For example, if you checked “full availability”, but wrote that you only wanted to work 20 hours, you would come up in the system as available for 40+ hours. That 20 hour number is useless since it can’t be entered into the system. There is a huge potential for miscommunication here: The supervisors believes these listers can work full-time because that’s what it says in the computer, but the worker really can only work part-time and indicated this on the application.

    Additionally, availability is one of the primary criteria used on job requistions. When a requisition is put into the system, a number for minimum available hours is entered. Anyone who does not meet this minimum does not show up on the list. Our ELCO was expected to run the requisitions to hire as many 40-hour listers as possible: the first requisition excluded anyone who couldn’t work at least 40 hours. This means that a person who scored a 10 on the test, but has full availability, would be hired before a 10-point veteran who aced the test, but can only work 30 hours.

  36. Anonymous CL Says:

    ex-ELCO employee: Interesting, thanks for posting. I knew the information from the application/hiring forms wasn’t handled well/consistently (and apparently not validated/double-checked); now there’s some more flaws known.

  37. JM CL Says:

    Just wondering about the background check process. Can you have anything at all on your record? I have a driving w/out a license from about 24 years ago. Apparently they have done the background check and have said nothing but I wonder… Any thoughts…

  38. Anonymous CL Says:

    JM CL: Here’s some info on the ‘what’s a concern on the background check’ topic I gathered for someone else four months ago.

    I found some relevant lines in the census job application form:
    http://2010.census.gov/2010censusjobs/documents/BC-170D_fillable.pdf

    They say any adult convictions *could* be used to disqualify you, but they emphasize the last ten years, and give you an opportunity to explain, so there’s a possibility of them deciding on a case-by-case basis. But if they don’t outright reject you for it, you’d probably still be bumped down on the hiring priority list, so if they are getting a high enough volume of applicants with no ‘record’, they might not get around to giving you work. (On the other hand, if you’re young enough that ‘20 years ago’ for you puts it back when you were younger than 18, it might not be a problem.)

    “If you have had a conviction of a violation of the law since age 18 for something other than a minor traffic violation it could be a basis for nonselection.”

    “During the last 10 years, have you been convicted, been imprisoned, been on probation, or been on parole? (Includes felonies, firearms or explosives violations, misdemeanors, and all other offenses. If “YES,” use Item 32 to provide the date, explanation of the violation, place of occurrence, and the name and address of the police department or court involved.”

    “When answering questions 27 through 30 you may omit: 1) traffic fines of $300 or less; 2) any violation of law committed
    before your 16th birthday, 3) any violation of law committed before your 18th birthday, if finally decided in juvenile court or under a youth offender law; 4) any conviction set aside under the Federal Youth Corrections Act or similar State law; 5) any other conviction for which the record was expunged under Federal or State law. NOTE: You must include convictions resulting from a plea of nolo contendere (no contest).”

    “Important note about questions 27 through 30. We will consider the date, facts, and circumstances of each event you list. In most cases you can still be considered for Federal jobs. However, if you fail to tell the truth or fail to list all relevant events, this failure may be grounds for not hiring you, for firing you after you begin work, or for criminal
    prosecution [18 U.S.C. 1001].”

  39. JM Says:

    As a CL I was instructed to let go a young man in my crew, because something showed up on his background check. He informed me his license was suspended because he didn’t pay the fine for a seat belt violation, and he was in the process of straightening it out with the DMV, in the meantime, he was treated like a pedophile. I had to take his equipment and badge and escort him out of training. Humilitating. Weeks later he was still trying to find out what his status was (NONE) my FOS had quit and the AMQA got a kick out of firing people.

  40. Anon Says:

    He didn’t have a valid driver’s license. He was ineligible to do the job. He must have lied on the application, so he gets fired and escorted out after lying. Why is this an issue?

  41. B Says:

    Has anyone heard anything about when they are going to start the hiring for the next operation and will it be based out of the ELCO or the LCO?

  42. CLA Anonymous Says:

    Wow, I stumbled across this site trying to find out more about the next phase of operations. Wish I’d seen this back when my CL & FOS & I were all trying to piece together what was going on.

    We had an excellent team. Mostly men & women in their 40′s laid off from auto companies & suppliers. I had been working a crap job for the last 2 years because I had to take something when Unemployment ran out. So had some of the others. We ALL needed the work, even if it was only temporary. It was inconvenient for me to have only about 6 weeks of work/paid training, but our enumerators trained one week to work for about 10 days. I felt like they had been duped.

    When the big push to finish fast came down the chain, the CL & I were told that the CLD’s that finished fastest would be assigned to a CLD that needed help. That’s what we told our people as it became obvious to them that we were almost done. During the last days of the push, talking to other CL’s it was becoming apparent that we were all racing to the finish line & there was no other work to be assigned.

    At that point I changed from telling them that they would get another CLD to they may possibly be put in the pool of applicants for QC. A rumor I had heard. That was the only thing I ever did that my CL was not happy about. I had to retract that but I was allowed to say that they will go back into the job pool, with preference since they had already passed the test & security checks & done a great job. I absolutely hated being the bearer of that bad news.

    I don’t want my experience as a CLA to sound all bad. We actually had an awesome time. Best work environment I ever experienced. The CL came from a military background, so he was always organized & great at keeping people assigned and out beating the streets. He & I both had the same philosophy that if someone was struggling one of us would go out to give them whatever re-training was required to offer the best chance for success. We had no one quit. We did have one who struggled, but she came in a week later than the rest and her issues were more with home than work. Around the middle of the first week our team was in the field, a message went out on the HHC regarding turning in equipment. The team rang my phone off the hook.

    When our CLD was finished the CL & I had the agonizing experience of choosing only 3 out of 17 to go to QC training. We had less than 24 hours notice, be there the next morning for training. It was a roomful of people. When I was assigned to a QC CLD the CL there informed me that she didn’t understand why she was getting more people. Every day. She had a different FOS and was clearly not happy. She said she would never do it again, except maybe as a Lister. So 5 of us got almost an extra week of work out of QC when the message went out that we were done.

    B asked on July 3, 209:
    Has anyone heard anything about when they are going to start the hiring for the next operation and will it be based out of the ELCO or the LCO?

    I don’t know details about the ELCO or LCO. I have been online searching to find out what the codes on the Standard Form 50 mean that I received July 18, 2009. Box 5-A has a code 760, 5-B says “Ext of Appt NTE 09-08-2009″
    (When I was hired, Box 5-B had “Exc Appt NTE 06-06-2009″)
    Anyone know what this means? I am still classified as an Intermittent Employee. My CL asked if I wanted to be his CLA again or be a CL. I told him either one. He told me he would ask for me & try to put the team back together if it’s up to his discretion. Seeing how random this operation is at the top of the food chain, I don’t see that happening. But I will remain hopeful until I hear otherwise. We all know now what we are in for, but the pay is better than anything else around here. I made more money in 6 weeks with the Census than I would have made at my last job in 4 months. So, no regrets. Thanks for the forum to vent these frustrations!

  43. B Says:

    Update: The next operations begins late September, Group Living Quarters and is based out of the ELCO not the LCO. FYI it’s slated to last 4 wks but again who knows if it will be similar to the previous operation that ended much earlier? I believe that listers for GLQ will be trained the second or third week of September and the work will start right after training. I also believe that most of the listers for GLQ will be pulled from previous CL and CLA’s. I am not 100% positive on this but I do know that the GLQ is a much smaller operation and will require fewer people.

  44. CaliCL Says:

    I was called for Crew Leader Training lasting 1 week in early Sept, then 3-4 weeks work on OLQ’s. No other information given. I hope I can get my previous CLA and listers back; I couldn’t have asked for a better crew. Will report back after training.

  45. Anonymous CL Says:

    Belated response to ‘CLD Anonymous’s question from July 19:
    “I have been online searching to find out what the codes on the Standard Form 50 mean that I received July 18, 2009. Box 5-A has a code 760, 5-B says “Ext of Appt NTE 09-08-2009″
    (When I was hired, Box 5-B had “Exc Appt NTE 06-06-2009″)
    Anyone know what this means? I am still classified as an Intermittent Employee.”

    The ‘intermittent employees’ (all of us non-permanent workers for the decennial census) are placed in active status for default intervals of three months at a time. If it gets close to the three-month point and looks like the project you’re working on might take even one more day of work past your current three-month “not-to-exceed” date, then they add on another three months to your active status period (“appointment”). Whenever you finish a project before a three-month end date, they go ahead and deactivate you early.

    You probably started work (first day of training) on/about March 6, 2009.
    “Exc Appt NTE 06-06-2009″ on your first SF-50 (Notification of Personnel Action) means “Excepted Appointment Not To Exceed June 6, 2009″, right around 3 months after you started.
    “Ext of Appt NTE 09-08-2009″ means “Extension of Appointment Not To Exceed September 8, 2009″, right around 3 months after your first appointment period was set to end.

    An appointment in Excepted Service means (in this Census situation) that we weren’t hired through the normal federal ‘competitive civil service’ application process (having to submit an extra-detailed full resume, answer a bunch of essay questions about your ‘knowledge, skills, and abilities’ aka KSAs, etc etc) – they streamlined the process for the massive temporary Census hirings, just using the D-267/D-270 tests and a basic application form.

  46. B Says:

    I am currently doing recruiting, which I did last fall as well but this time I have a new AMR and it is obvious this person is overwhelmed with the work. As a result the RA’s are required to do three times the forms that we used last year and some of the forms the AMR has e-mailed to us are forms that the regional office sends to them to gather info on all RA activity and return to them. When the AMR misses a deadline to give the regional office the blame gets put on the RA’s. Any AMR’s have any thoughts on a solution to this??

  47. DGN Says:

    I too am glad to find this website. I’m unemployed, have a Ph.D. and an information technology background. I had close to a perfect score on the D-267 exam. I found this website because some of the posters mentioned the Census Bureau D-270 Supervisor’s Exam. I’m scheduled to take the exam in Virginia on 15 January 2010. I have seen several articles mentioning that the U.S. Census Bureau is impressed with the quality of the applicants for the temporary Census Bureau positions. Total expenditures will be $300 million. Given the criticism that the current administration is getting for the dismal unemployment numbers, I’m sure that the Census Bureau will over-hire so they can hype the job stimulus effects of the U.S. Census. Thanks for the valuable field information.

  48. Chris Bezirdjian Says:

    All, does anyone know at what level the hiring decisions for quality control and other office-based postions is made? Is this performed by the regional level offices or is this handled at the local/county level offices? thanks chris bezirdjian

  49. DGN Says:

    Census hiring blitz of 750,000 to cut jobless rate, offer boost to Obama
    By Ian Swanson – The Hill – 03/09/10 01:36 PM ET

    The U.S. Census Bureau expects to add up to 750,000 workers to its payroll by May, a hiring binge that could knock the unemployment rate down by as much as a half-point……

    http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/85711-census-hiring-blitz-of-750000-to-cut-jobless-rate-boost-obama?page=2#comments

  50. Guy Smiley Says:

    Was working as an address canvassing enumerator during the update/leave operation. Same here in the northeast.. 1 week of training for 3 weeks of work. Too many people. They just trained some of us for 1 week of quality control work and at the end of the training we were told that some of us might not work at all. I enjoyed the work, but its typical government in that they pick the most inefficient way to do something.

  51. Rich Says:

    Great article. They hired 15 of us for the Group Quarters Enumeration. I found out there are around 60 group quarters in my district. 4 each, most of which are churches and they can be done in maybe a half hour.

  52. NRFUNewbie Says:

    Although it looks like most of the posts on this site are from the previous operation (Update/Leave?), I was wondering if anyone employed under the NRFU operation is reading this?

    I’m a NRFU Enumerator and we started this last weekend after one week of training. I don’t know how much work we really have to do, I think maybe they are trying to play it close to the vest, but it is obvious to us all that it’s not in our best interest to work too quickly… I’m already under pressure from my CL to up my productivity even though after 2 days (13 hours) I’ve closed 21 out of 37 cases in my binder.

    Granted, it seems like the NRFU operation might be a little harder to gauge time-wise than the canvassing, because so much of it depends on catching people at home and filling out seemingly endless forms, but still! I wonder if the big error that the people with 10 years to plan this whole thing was due to the massive unemployment that caused the availability of a much more highly qualified than usual labor force.

    Anyone still reading this involved in NRFU? I’d be interested to hear about your experience…

  53. Censeless CL - Enumerator Says:

    I took the Census test when it was first offered and scored 29 of 30 on the test. That, along with my 5 point veteran’s status gave me 34 points on a 30 pont test.
    I declined to participate on the address canvassing, but did do the group quarters advance visit. I took crew leaders training, where we were told to put in as many hours as possible without going over 40 hours. We were also told that his would go on for several weeks. We were told to slow down after only a few days work, but still finished our tasks in about 1 & 1/2 weeks. I was not recalled for group quarters enumeration.
    Later, I took the enumerators training for service based and TNSOL site. I went out one night for TNSOL with 6 enumerators in my vehicle looking for homeless people. There was flooding in the area that night, so most of the sites were empty.
    I was then called back for NRFU and again was trained as an enumerator and worked for a couple of weeks. The response from the public was good for the most part, with a few refusing to talk.
    I then received a notice that my term with the Census Bureau had been extended to July 28, but no assignment given. Today, July 29th, I received a notice taht I had been extended to September 28, again with no assignment given.
    I had worked for the same company for 41 years, the last 3 years of which were under new ownership, when I was told that my company would honor my prior 38 years of employment if I would accept a “voluntary layoff” and sign a 1 year non-competative agreement. Otherwise, they may lay me off only recognizing my 3 years under the new management. My last day was January 30, 2009. I had been collecting unemployment every since and was concerned about the effect of the Census job on unemployment. So far, there has been no impact. I have no idea why they are keeping me on the hook for another 2 months. Quite frankly, I don’t get it.