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.

Posts Tagged ‘employment’

Census, employment rate wind down

Friday, July 16th, 2010

I’m seeing several reports of the unemployment rate being affected by the end of census jobs. Georgia’s The Augusta Chronicle, Tampa’s ABC Action News, and San Diego’s North County Times all have similar stories. It’s all part of the process, baby. Here’s an excellent piece by Darcy Courteau over at The Atlantic that reflects on the end of these census jobs:

The Divine Impermanence of Being a Census Worker

Day two of our Census Bureau training, fingerprinted and cleared, it was time to briefly introduce ourselves and tell the group why we were here. I was first. I reached for the only shred of experience I’d had with the Census Bureau. Ten years ago I was living in a shack on my grandparents’ Ozark property — a place so overgrown I usually missed the turnoff — when a man from the Census showed up. I held up my hands, shaking them, to show how he’d trembled in terror when he stepped from his car. The day before, down another remote road, an anti-government militia with AK-47s had ambushed him. “So,” I finished, “since then I’ve had a burning passion for the Census adventure.”

Our instructor turned to the guy next to me, who stood, said “paycheck,” and sat back down. “I think it’s safe to say that’s why we’re all here,” the instructor muttered. Everyone agreed, aside from a couple of defiant middle-aged women who declared that they were here to get to know the community.

We were re-interviewers, our mission to spot-check data the first waves of Census enumerators had scared up. Training wasn’t much more interactive than listening to verbatim readings from two manuals that our instructor shook at us, a demoralized Moses with perfect bound books full of commandments, though there was only one that really mattered: no overtime, never, DO NOT CLAIM OVERTIME. Our black and white shoulder bags we packed as a group. A team leader asked us to note our reclose-able plastic baggies of pencils, and, leaving nothing to chance, instructed us not to empty the contents into our shoulder bags, as loose pencils would roll around the bottom of a bag.

I’ve been in the field since, long enough to absorb a few more useful bits of knowledge. Newly arrived in Washington, I’ve learned that those women in training were on to something. It might seem obvious, but a great way to get the lay of the land city is to drive its back streets, stopping at homes of strangers to ask if they consider themselves to be male or female, what races they’d like to claim, if they’ve lived somewhere else during the year including jail, prison, or a nursing home, and–when you’re wrapping things up–whether there are any babies in the house they’ve forgotten to mention.

My small crew meets each morning at 8:15 at a McDonald’s where we turn in completed cases — those for which we’ve finally buttonholed a householder — to the crew leader, a trained actor who fields our queries with Old Hollywood gravitas; only when he’s found another ding in his Civic does he break character, falling into unactorly grousing. We swap stories over a syrup-gummed four-top: no militias yet, but we have had our share of doozies. The man who left me a perfectly printed note atop the Notice of Visit I had slipped under his door — hours before being arrested and jailed, I learned from neighbors — was more gracious than another woman who screamed that her boyfriend was going to take care of me, a threat issued straight from the nose as her eyes stared in opposite directions like a hammerhead shark’s. One of my colleague’s occupants told her to go away and then waited her out behind his door. But she’s a 61-year-old bewigged karate brown belt who moonlights as a security guard, and has a few tricks of her own. She had worn jeans on her first visit to his house, but surveying the upscale neighborhood, decided to adjust her look for the next. Gussied up in a church dress and fresh wig, she returned. The man opened the door and greeted her like a friend, tut-tutting about the grubby girl who’d come the night before. He wouldn’t let that one in.

We might seem like an odd bunch, with our dented fleet of emissions-test-failing cars, but for now, we’re the demographers who are mapping the country’s human geography. Not for long, though. Another great lesson of the summer is on the Divine Impermanence of being a Census worker. In May there were nearly 600,000 of us earning paychecks across the United States — a number large enough to ratchet down the unemployment rate by 0.2 percent. But even now our numbers are eroding: in weeks only a few thousand enumerators will be left to follow up on fewer than 20 million residences of the original 130,000,000. Come September, the last door will have been knocked upon. The Census website provides a page for former employees back in the job market that lists our various job titles along with bulleted duties and the stern directive to “copy and paste only the information describing tasks you actually performed into your resume.”

The past weeks have also revealed the Impermanence of most Washingtonians, who seem never to be home and indeed to have a Buddha-like detachment from sleep, food preparation, and other people. For upwardly mobile whites living on Capitol Hill, the mark of achievement appears to be living alone, regardless of how isolated and ill-lit the apartment. The farther I go from downtown, however, the more intricate become the household counts. At the city’s edge one morning, a very young woman answered her door in cartoon-printed pajamas and a headscarf. Too shy and sleepy to refuse, she sat on the porch and answered my questions. Her boyfriend’s grandmother owned the house and lived there with several relatives, including the boyfriend. Realizing that the girl was not only the youngest in the household but the only one not related by blood, I asked if this was where she lived and slept most of the time, Census-speak for permanent address. She glanced at the front door. “I ain’t going nowhere.” The way she said it, I swear she was staking a claim.

CNSNews.com Inspector General’s Memo: Census Says It Hired More Workers Than It Needed As a ‘Cost-Saving Measure’

Saturday, June 5th, 2010

Interesting article from CNS News (click HERE for full article):

The U.S. Census purposefully hired more workers than it needed, telling the Office of the Inspector General of the Commerce Department that it did so as a “cost-saving measure,” according to a memorandum that Todd J. Zinser of the inspector general’s office sent to Census Bureau Director Robert Groves last week.

“According to Census,” said Zinser’s May 26 memo to Groves, “‘frontloading’ its workforce (i.e. hiring and training more enumerators than necessary to offset turnover) is a cost-saving measure.” The inspector general’s memo, however, suggested that in at least one Census Bureau operation excessive staff had increased the “cost of operations” and that in another operation deployment of an unnecessarily large number of workers ”increased the operation’s direct labor and travel costs.”

In the first quarter of this year (January-March), personnel from the inspector general’s office observed Census Bureau operations in four programs. These included “update/leave” (U/L), in which Census workers deliver questionnaires to homes that would not be reached by ordinary mail service; “update/enumerate” (U/E), which counts people in communities where the homes lack ordinary mailing addresses or street names; “enumeration at transitory locations” (ETL), which counts people at places where their residences are potentially mobile, such as recreational vehicle parks, campgrounds, marinas and carnivals; and “service-based enumeration” (SBE), which counts homeless people at places such as homeless shelters, mobile food vans and so-called “targeted non-sheltered outdoor locations” (TNSOL).

The inspector general’s memo said that the Census Bureau had “overestimated” the staff needed for the program to enumerate people at transitory locations. “During the ETL operation,” said the memo, “crew leaders overestimated the number of Census staff needed to enumerate transitory locations, thus increasing the cost of operations.”

The memo also said that there were so many people hired for the “service-based enumeration” that there turned out to be one Census enumerator for every seven homeless people counted, and that the inspector general’s office “observed significant periods of enumerator inactivity at certain locations.”

“In another operation [which the inspector general’s office confirmed to CNSNews.com was the SBE program],” said the memo, “we found many enumerator teams to be unnecessarily large—an average ratio of one enumerator for just seven homeless respondents. We observed significant periods of enumerator inactivity at certain locations, which increased the operation’s direct labor and travel costs.”

As a result of these problems, the inspector general suggested that the Census bureau should “reevaluate” frontloading—that is, the practice of hiring more enumerators than necessary to cover anticipated turnover. “Census should reevaluate its practice of frontloading and develop a better process to estimate workload and cost assumptions,” said the memo. “A more streamlined enumeration process could reduce training and travel costs and be more responsive to changing economic conditions.”

Wall Street Journal: 2010 Census hiring blitz will alter job figures

Tuesday, June 1st, 2010

The Wall Street Journal asserts that the national unemployment rate will fall this month, and this is in large part due to the thousands of people who are temporarily working for the 2010 Census. Here’s the article.

New York Post: Census Bureau’s hiring and re-hiring and re-re-hiring inflates US job statistics

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Unemployment figures are likely higher than the government claims, simply because so many Census Bureau employees have been hired, fired, re-hired, re-fired, etc, etc etc for each Census Bureau operation. Here’s the full story from John Crudele at the NYP:

You know the old saying: “Everyone loves a charade.” Well, it seems that the Census Bureau may be playing games.

Last week, one of the millions of workers hired by Census 2010 to parade around the country counting Americans blew the whistle on some statistical tricks.

The worker, Naomi Cohn, told The Post that she was hired and fired a number of times by Census. Each time she was hired back, it seems, Census was able to report the creation of a new job to the Labor Department.

Below, I have a couple more readers who worked for Census 2010 and have tales to tell.

But first, this much we know.

Each month Census gives Labor a figure on the number of workers it has hired. That figure goes into the closely followed monthly employment report Labor provides. For the past two months the hiring by Census has made up a good portion of the new jobs.

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.

One hour! A month! So, if a worker is terminated after only one hour and another is hired in her place, then a second new job can apparently be reported to Labor . (I’ve been unable to get Census to explain this to me.)

Here’s a note from a Census worker — this one from Manhattan:

“John: I am on my fourth rehire with the 2010 Census.

“I have been hired, trained for a week, given a few hours of work, then laid off. So my unemployed self now counts for four new jobs.

“I have been paid more to train all four times than I have been paid to actually produce results. These are my tax dollars and your tax dollars at work.

“A few months ago I was trained for three days and offered five hours of work counting the homeless. Now, I am knocking (on) doors trying to find the people that have not returned their Census forms. I worked the 2000 Census. It was a far more organized venture.

“Have to run and meet my crew leader, even though with this rain I did not work today. So I can put in a pay sheet for the hour or hour and a half this meeting will take. Sincerely, C.M.

And here’s another:

“John: I worked for (Census) and I was paid $18.75 (an hour) just like Ms. Naomi Cohn from your article.

“I worked for about six weeks or so and I picked the hours I wanted to work. I was checking the work of others. While I was classifying addresses, another junior supervisor was checking my work.

“In short, we had a “checkers checking checkers” quality control. I was eventually let go and was told all the work was finished when, in fact, other people were being trained for the same assignment(s).

“I was re-hired about eight months later and was informed that I would have to go through one week of additional training.

Does this lawsuit against the Census Bureau have legitimacy? Perhaps

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

H/t to former MyTwoCensus editor Emily Babay for informing me of the following lawsuit filed against the Census Bureau for its hiring practices. The Philadelphia Inquirer brings us the following:

Phila. woman at center of census lawsuit

By Jane M. Von Bergen

Paying $17.75 an hour, U.S. Census jobs, though temporary, are attractive in an economy where unemployment is stuck at 9.7 percent. But the Census Bureau’s screening policies, designed to safeguard the public, end up discriminating against minorities, according to a federal lawsuit filed Tuesday.

That’s because the bureau has set up an “arbitrary barrier to employment” for any person with an arrest record, “no matter how trivial or disconnected from the requirements of the job,” the lawsuit, filed in Manhattan, says. U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke is named as the defendant.

The national suit, filed by Outten & Golden L.L.P. in New York and a coalition of public-interest organizations, seeks class-action status on behalf of those turned down for a job if they were arrested and not convicted, or convicted for an offense irrelevant to the job.

“The U.S. Census Bureau’s top priority is the safety of both our workforce and the American public,” Commerce Department spokesman Nicholas Kimball responded. “Americans must be confident that, if . . . a census taker must come to their door to count them, we’ve taken steps to ensure their safety.”

Kimball declined to comment on the suit.

One of the two lead plaintiffs, Evelyn Houser, 69, of North Philadelphia, thinks she is qualified to fill one of the 1.2 million census positions. That’s because Houser worked for the census before, in 1990.

“What’s the difference between then and now?” she asked in an interview Tuesday. “It’s like a slap in the face.”

The difference, said her lawyer, Sharon Dietrich with Community Legal Services in Philadelphia, is the government’s cumbersome screening process.

Computers kick back any application with an arrest record, requiring more documentation, but the Census Bureau doesn’t make it clear what documentation is required, Dietrich said.

The discrimination occurs because the arrest and conviction rates of African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans exceed those of whites, the suit says. Compounding the problem, it says, is that one in three arrests do not lead to prosecution or conviction, yet the bureau’s system does not readily distinguish between arrests and convictions.

“The processes are screening out any kind of criminal case, no matter what,” Dietrich said.

“If you were arrested years ago for a minor offense, you are asked to comply with the same burdensome process as if you had been released from jail last week after committing a murder,” she said,

Plaintiffs’ attorney Samuel Miller, of Outten & Golden, estimates that as many as one million applicants may have been caught up in the process, with tens of thousands unfairly deterred or excluded from employment.

In 1981, Houser was a 39-year-old mother raising four children on welfare and food stamps. Her monthly check was several days away, but she was out of food when, going outside to take out the trash, she found a check next to the Dumpster.

“I went home and told my kids, ‘God sent me a piece of paper that says we’re going to eat tonight.’ ”

Houser shouldn’t have done it, but she tried to cash the check. She was arrested. Instead of being convicted, she was placed in alternative rehabilitation program. Her record remains clean, Dietrich said.

In 1990, Houser got a job with the census. Last year, she decided to apply again and passed a qualifying test.

A month or so later, the Census Bureau sent her a letter, asking her for documentation. The way she read it, her fingerprints would suffice, so she had them taken and sent them in the next day.

The bureau rejected her because, it said, she hadn’t sent the right documentation. Dietrich called the bureau’s communications confusing.

Since then, Houser has been involved in a long appeals process, which culminated in the filing of the suit.

Houser, who lives in subsidized housing, estimated that 25 percent of her working-age neighbors are unemployed. They are “just existing,” she said. “It’s just survival.”

She’s helping her neighbors find a path to employment, Houser said. “I’m a little gray-haired old lady and I’m trying to lead them in a better way.”

Congressman weighs in on inconsistent hiring figures

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Update: We understand that many of our readers are hoping to find out more information about the FedEx-gate Scandal. We will be holding our next post on this issue until tomorrow morning as we are currently fact-checking new major allegations.

Earlier today, Ed O’Keefe of The Washington Post reported, “the House lawmaker charged with overseeing the Census has expressed some early, if only vague concerns about how Census workers have performed their address canvassing duties, or the national inventory of every place of residence.

“While I’m very pleased that Address Canvassing has gone well for the most part, it’s too early to declare the operation a complete success because there are still some unanswered questions,” Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-Mo.) said in a statement yesterday. “The Commerce Department Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office have both expressed concern about some listers not following procedures for Address Canvassing and some shortcomings in quality control measures.” A spokesman would not elaborate.”‘

Below, please find a press release that echoes many of the issues that MyTwoCensus has previously reported about employment and unemployment figures not adding up. Apparently at least one member of Congress (Patrick McHenry) has caught on…

Press Release
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Brock McCleary
June 9, 2009 Phone: (202) 225-2576

McHenry: Is the Administration erroneously counting census jobs?

WASHINGTON – Congressman Patrick McHenry (NC-10), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National Archives, issued the following query regarding Obama Administration officials’ claims that the stimulus package will “save or create” 600,000 jobs over the next 100 days.

“As hiring for the 2010 Census continues, the American people ought to know whether the Obama Administration is attempting to include the thousands of temporary and part-time census workers in their count of 600,000 jobs ‘saved or created.’

“Including census workers would be disingenuous at best.  First, the Obama Administration didn’t invent the census; these are positions which are created every ten years, regardless of who occupies the White House.

“Furthermore, attempting to combine these part-time and temporary jobs to count them as full-time positions is not an accurate picture of the nature of the work.  As many families struggling to make ends meet with a series of part-time jobs can tell you, two part-time jobs does not equal one full-time job.

“I hope the Administration will be forthcoming about whether these temporary positions, which would have been created regardless of stimulus spending, are included in their jobs count.”

Note:    The 2010 Decennial Census is expected to result in 200,000 hires in 2009, which the Office of Management and Budget scores as the equivalent of 17,197 full-time positions.  In 2010, the Census Bureau will hire an estimated 700,000 workers, the equivalent of 105,391 full-time positions.

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