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.

With latest jobs report, the Census Bureau’s failures to report training hours and part-time jobs come to light

For most of you, this is old news by now, but I hesitated to report it because it would probably just make you more angry. It recently came out that most of America’s new jobs are temporary Census Bureau positions that will soon end, which is dismal news for the economy. As MyTwoCensus.com observed, some people on the right are outraged by what they report as false job statistics since Census Bureau employees have been hired and let go (for various reasons) and then re-hired to work for other 2010 Census operations down the road.

FoxNews published reports from Commerce Department and Bureau of Labor Statistics spokespersons:

Commerce Department spokesman Nick Kimball:

“The Census Bureau — like all other employers — reports the number of individuals on its payroll for the specific week the Labor Department uses as a point of reference for measuring the nation’s level of This is not a tally of positions filled during the past month — instead, it is the number of actual individual human beings who received paychecks that week. That number can then be compared to the reports from previous months to understand the changing jobs environment over time.”

Bureau of Labor Statistics spokeswoman Stacey Standish:

“Each month the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Current Employment Statistics (CES) program publishes the employment levels for total nonfarm and component industries. Establishments, including the Census Bureau, are asked to report the total number of workers on their payroll. That is, the establishment is asked to report the total number of employees who worked or received pay for the pay period that includes the 12th of the month. The CES program does not ask establishments to report the number of new hires or created, or the number of persons who were laid off.”

Shelly Lowe of the Census Bureau’s public information office commented on a MyTwoCensus post:

First, the Census Bureau does not hire, then fire, and then rehire anyone. Any employee who is fired is fired for cause. We train and hire temporary workers for various operations, most significantly Non-Response Follow-Up (NRFU) to complete work assignments. When the work is complete, the temporary worker goes into an inactive status. They may be re-activated if there is more work to do, or for another subsequent operation. At no time do we count a re-activation from non-working status as a ?rehire.?

The article goes on to state: “Labor doesn’t check the Census hiring figure or whether the jobs are actually new or recycled. It considers a new job to have been created if someone is hired to work at least one hour a month.

This is simply inaccurate. The Census Bureau reports to the Department of Labor and on our public website the number of people paid for work during a given week. We do not report the number of jobs. The Census Bureau reports the total number of unduplicated temporary 2010 workers that earned any pay during a specific weekly pay period. Temporary workers earning any pay during the week are counted only once. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) measures changes in employment levels — not the actual level itself — and looks only at the week which includes the 12th day of the month. It is simply not possible for Census to engage in the manipulation of data to artificially inflate the employment report of the BLS in the manner alleged by this news column.

So now we see that the number of people on the payroll each week is the number of people who are reported to the government. However, as we know from previous posts and reports by the Commerce Department Inspector General and Government Accountability Office, there are tons and tons of Census Bureau employees who are “trained” each week but never actually work. Furthermore, there are thousands of Census Bureau employees who are only working part-time. Many workers have twenty hours to work per week, tops. These  figures are not accounted for in the Census Bureau’s tally, which are further compounded by the Census Bureau’s frequent IT malfunctions making it such that Census Bureau employees who are on the clock are merely sitting around and waiting for assignments to come through.

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16 Responses to “With latest jobs report, the Census Bureau’s failures to report training hours and part-time jobs come to light”

  1. Crew Leader Says:

    I think your headline is, at best, sensational. There is no failure here except for the failure of people to understand what the numbers reflect.

    Plain & simple: It is the number of people who were paid for any amount of work during the week that includes the 12th of the month.

    No more, no less, no problem.

  2. Senseless Says:

    In Shelly Lowe’s comment she says, “at no time do we count a reactivation from non-working status as a rehire.” If that is true then why does DAPPS classify some employees as rehires? Also why does the print-out of people to report to training show some people as rehires? Why does the employee roster increase when people return to service? Also she states “It is simply not possible for the Census to engage in the manipulation of data”. Really? I see it happen everyday in the LCO and the RCC. Another example of the “public information” office having no clue what is really happening in the field?

  3. Anonymous Says:

    http://www.factcheck.org/2010/05/more-census-nonsense/

  4. pranita veeria Says:

    Not possible to manipulate figures???? I guess they didn’t experience AD CAN, GQV, GQAV and TNSOL operations in New York City…..that data was so inaccurate that it’s frightening. And with the blessing of the Area Managers and “don’t question me” ARCM Cenac….

  5. Crew Leader Says:

    @ Senseless: I’m a “rehire” because I worked in the 2009 Address Canvassing operation. What Lowe is referring to is 2010 operations.

    As far as manipulation of data, you’re taking Lowe’s words out of context. You didn’t include the last half of her sentence which is “to artificially inflate the employment report of the BLS in the manner alleged by this news column”.

    When you consider the entire sentence, it’s quite plain that she’s not talking about the manipulation of ANY data for ANY purpose (which we all know is VERY possible but, not the subject of this blog).

    I, really, don’t think the Dept. of Commerce cares to manipulate the employment figures…especially if you consider that these figures are as temporary as the 2010 Census, itself, is. If anyone doesn’t recognize that the census is causing a very temporary spike in the employment rate, they are morons.

  6. nerfoo Says:

    “If anyone doesn’t recognize that the census is causing a very temporary spike in the employment rate, they are morons.”

    That’s what I’ve been thinking all along, in a perhaps more gentle way. I don’t understand what the big deal is – no one is saying this is a trend or this is permanent. It’s quite obvious that this is temporary, isn’t it?

  7. Anonymous Says:

    See Post Hack Fallacy at http://www.factcheck.org/2010/05/more-census-nonsense

    I seriously don’t know why SRM and others are pounding their heads against the wall on this topic. If the CB were inflating the numbers then why aren’t the numbers inflated? ~400k seems about right for the late April/early May timeframe, so what’s the problem?

  8. Senseless Says:

    Crew Leader – I was employed in earlier operations in 2009 and 2010 so I do understand rehires. The term rehire is used in admin operations for any person previously employed by the census.

  9. Anon Says:

    It’s all based on how many people were paid for a job done any time during the week of the month containing the 12th no matter how much or how little they worked. Nothing more, nothing less. Good grief. The Decennial has nothing to do with the way the data is collected.

  10. Winston La Croix Says:

    WIN – WIN
    So here’s my plan:
    Since the government will soon be needing staff to implement the new Health Care Project I suggest that all the Census office staff can become Health Care office staff when the Census is over.
    WIN – The government already has a fully trained, fingerprinted, background checked & ‘used to changes’ staff eager to continue working once the Census ends.We wouldn’t have to tear down the old offices & sell (at great loss)or donate all the office furniture & supplies; we wouldn’t have to set up & furnish new offices (at great expense.) Also, think of the time saved with a working staff ready to hit the ground running, it would take at least a year off the time needed to implement the new system.
    WIN – Those pesky unemployment numbers would not have to drop so severely & we could be glad for the jobs that have been offered us rather than being resentful that the temporary jobs are ending.

    There doesn’t seem to be a downside. Think about it. Tell your friends.
    And your Congressman. And your President.

    Respectfully submitted, Winston La Croix

  11. Crew Leader Says:

    Winston, Winston, Winston…why would you wish this train wreck on something so hopeful as the new Health Care Project?

    Respectfully submitted & rejected!

  12. Winston La Croix Says:

    What makes you think a new staff, etc. would be better done for Health Care? Since it’s unlikely that they would ask you to head the new program let’s take what works & move on to the next thing. W

  13. Stephen Robert Morse Says:

    Factcheck.org generally does a great job. I know the project well as one of my professors at Penn was/is heavily involved with it. However, I don’t think that it is necessarily 100% right in this situation on the issue of hiring, firing, and re-hiring.

  14. Anon Says:

    It’s the same spike in figures for the decennial because of temporary part time workers as occurs in December for the holidays and to some degree in the summer because of students working while out of school. How many people were working at any job for any amount of time during the week of the 12th – that’s it. Why do you not get that??

  15. My Two Census » Blog Archive » Census Bureau Director Robert M. Groves says that operations are winding down; Mass #layoffs ahead at the #2010 #Census Says:

    [...] Also, please say a warm and fuzzy goodbye Obama Administration job creation statistics that were inflated by Census Bureau hires! [...]

  16. DAPPer Says:

    Actually, factcheck is wrong because Shelly Lowe is lying. I don’t understand why a site that supposedly “checks” facts would take the word of someone who works for what is essentially the Census’ ministry of information.

    In fact, I personally know of a case where a person was fired from the office for misconduct but then rehired as an enumerator. This is because this individual – like many census workers who are fired – was allowed to resign rather than be terminated.

    I also know of several cases of employees who were terminated for lack of work – employees who worked at the Questionnaire Assistance Center, which ran through March – and then rehired as enumerators in April.

    In fact, everyone who leaves census employment is processed as a termination in DAPPS. If the reason for termination is entered as poor performance or misconduct, the person – in theory – cannot be hired again – although I also know of at least one case in which someone was terminated for misconduct but then somehow rehired anyway. However, if a person is terminated for lack of work, or for expiration of temporary employment – as most terminations were processed at the end of the various completed operations like QAC and GQ – or if the person resigns for any reason – they can be rehired at any time, in which case they will in fact be processed as a “rehire” in DAPPS.

    So yes, people are routinely hired, terminated, then re-hired. And there is no such thing as “inactive status.” There is something called “non-working status” but it is used only in cases where an employee’s credentials (fingerprints, background check, identifying documents, etc.) are under review – in other words, when we’re not 100% sure it’s safe to allow the person to interact with the public, but we have no cause to terminate, we put the person on non-working status pending verification of the person’s background or identity.

    So while this may not be relevant in terms of labor statistics, it is certainly relevant to the credibility of the people at the census who are in charge of misinforming the public.