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 ‘part-time’

New York Times Cover Story Has It Wrong…

Saturday, December 19th, 2009

The New York Times dropped the ball this time. As we have already learned, and the Times acknowledged, the average 2010 Census job lasts for six weeks, which doesn’t create any form of economic stability. Next time, try to find more than one mouthpiece from Moody’s to give a quote that justifies an unremarkable claim… Anyway, here’s the article:

By Michael Luo

Next year’s census will not only count people, it will also put money in millions of pockets and potentially create a well-timed economic spark.

Not in more than a half-century has the United States census been conducted amid such high rates of joblessness. The 1.2 million census-taking jobs may be temporary, but they pay well, and economists say they will provide a significant lift.

The jobs will amount to a $2.3 billion injection into the economy at a critical juncture, a bridge between the moment when many economists believe the private sector will finally stop shedding jobs and when it ultimately begins to add them.

“These are real jobs with good solid hourly pay,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Economy.com.

Mr. Zandi added: “It’s a form of stimulus. It’s like infrastructure spending, or W.P.A. in the Depression. It effectively does the same thing. It’s not on the same scale, but it is large enough, and it will make a difference.”

Recruiting is just beginning for the jobs. The Census Bureau began adding temporary offices across the country in the fall and has recently been holding open houses to encourage people to sign up for a half-hour test that is the first step to a job. It has also set up a Web site with information for job seekers. About 13,000 workers were hired this month.

The peak of the bureau’s hiring, however, will be in late April and early May when about 800,000 people are expected to be on its payroll, most of them as field workers, knocking on doors to follow up with households that did not return census forms mailed in March. The positions vary in length and pay, but the average job is 20 hours a week for six weeks, paying $10 to $25 an hour.

Rebecca Blank, the under secretary for economic affairs at the Department of Commerce, whose responsibilities include the Census Bureau, was cautious about the ultimate impact on the monthly unemployment rate, because of a variety of complicating factors in how it is calculated.

“My guess is it’s going to be less than one-half of 1 percent,” Ms. Blank said.

Nevertheless, the boost to total employment nationwide, she said, will be significant. And the timing, in some ways, could not be better.

Mr. Zandi, along with many other economists, believes the nation will stop shedding jobs in the spring, and by the time these census jobs wind down over the summer, the private sector will be poised to begin adding jobs again.

“When we look back historically, the census will mark the end of the downdraft of employment,” he said.

Census officials across the country, however, sounded a note of caution for those desperate for the temporary jobs. Many may wind up being turned away. In part, that is because of the extraordinary demand during a smaller spate of earlier census hiring.

The bureau hired about 140,000 people this year for its address canvassing campaign, in which workers walked block by block to make sure the government’s address lists and maps were updated.

Lee Ann Morning, office manager of the bureau’s Denver office, said her staff was caught off guard after an open house last December that received some news coverage.

Every phone in the office was ringing, and additional staff members were called in to handle the volume. Hundreds of calls rolled over to voicemail, which quickly filled up. Many callers were unable to get through.

“It was that kind of overwhelming response,” Ms. Morning said.

Similar scenes across the country surprised census officials. Besides the volume, the caliber of the applicants was unprecedented.

“We saw certainly college degrees, master’s degrees, Ph.D.’s, doctors, all kinds of people you wouldn’t think would be looking for a temporary part-time position,” Ms. Morning said.

The Census Bureau had planned on recruiting 700,000 applicants by April for address canvassing. It wound up getting 1.2 million by early February, prompting officials to mostly call off recruiting across the country. The deluge left them with databases already bursting with recruits, especially in large metropolitan areas.

“We’re trying not to give the public out there a false sense there’s all these jobs out there,” said Tony Farthing, the bureau’s New York regional director, who is being especially cautious in his area about advertising too widely.

The need varies across the country, depending on geography, the local unemployment rate and other considerations. In many areas, especially rural and urban ones, the bureau still needs to recruit aggressively. One of its top priorities is hiring from the communities where census takers will be working, making sure they are familiar with its nuances and even speak the language.

There is a greater need for workers in areas where the mail-in response rate to the census form has traditionally been lower. So in many areas where there may be the most interest in census jobs, like certain suburbs, the need might be lower.

“The interest will not match perfectly with where you believe the work is going to be,” said Dwight Dean, the Detroit regional director for the bureau.

There is little doubt, however, that jobs will affect those in need. Mina Lopez, 43, of Chandler, Ariz., was laid off in March 2008 from her position as a human resources specialist when Arizona State University slashed its budget.

Ms. Lopez, a single of mother of three who holds two master’s degrees, depleted her savings and was forced to hold garage sales every other week to raise cash.

But she landed a part-time $15-an-hour census position last April, as part of the bureau’s address canvassing campaign. It lasted only five weeks but helped arrest her financial freefall. She landed another part-time census position shortly after that and was eventually promoted to be an assistant manager for administration in the Phoenix office, making $19.25 an hour.

“It’s saved me and given me hope that I’m going to dig out of this hole,” she said.

Obama Administration employment figures are lies: Why the numbers don’t add up…

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

As MyTwoCensus has consistently reported for the past few months, the U.S. Government’s unemployment figures are completely misleading. The government factored the 140,000 people who assisted with the Census Bureau’s first round of address canvassing operations as having new jobs that were created during these most troubling economic times.

However, as hundreds of our readers have expressed through their comments, contributions, and by contacting us, most of the employment for these early canvassing operations was extremely brief, lasting anywhere from a few days of training (without ever being called in for the actual job) to a couple of months (for the luckiest of employees).

Only now, after months of  neglecting these misleading statistics and happily toeing the Obama party line about job creation, is  the mainstream media beginning to pick up on these reporting errors, about the very limited job creation for 2010 Census operations. Thanks to the Associated Press for the following report:

Part-timers form a hidden unemployment rate

TOWNSHEND, Vt. (AP) — When the monthly unemployment figures come out Friday, Greg Noel will go from collecting government statistics to becoming one. Again.

Noel, 60, was among more than 60,000 Americans hired in April to help with the 2010 Census. But he’s out of work once more and moving back on the unemployment rolls because his temporary gig is finished.

It’s a familiar predicament in today’s economy, in which some 2 million people searching for full-time work have had to settle for less, and unemployment is much higher than the official rate when all the Americans who gave up looking for jobs are counted, too.

For the past month, Noel and more than 140,000 Census workers fanned out to create a map of every housing unit in the country, part of what will be the largest peacetime mobilization of civilian workers.

He roamed the spine of the Green Mountains with a handheld GPS unit for several weeks, wandering down dirt roads and chatting with people whose livelihoods are also uncertain. Work was good: The sun was out, the snow was gone and the blackflies hadn’t begun to hatch.

Because of the surge of Census hiring, April unemployment only rose to 8.9 percent — a much slower increase than had been feared. But the latest unemployment figures aren’t likely to get similar help. Thousands like Noel who were among one of the largest segments of the work force — people who have taken part-time jobs because they can’t find full-time work — have returned simply to being unemployed.

Consider the numbers:

_The 8.9 percent April unemployment rate was based on 13.7 million Americans out of work. But that number doesn’t include discouraged workers, or people who gave up looking for work after four weeks. Add those 700,000 people, and the unemployment rate would be 9.3 percent.

_The official rate also doesn’t include “marginally-attached workers,” or people who have looked for work in the past year but stopped searching in the past month because of barriers to employment such as child care, poor health or lack of transportation. Add those 1.4 million people, and the unemployment rate would be 10.1 percent.

_The official rate also doesn’t include “involuntary part-time workers,” or the 2 million people like Noel who took a part-time job because that’s all they could get, plus those whose work hours dropped below the full-time level. Once those 9 million workers are added to the unemployment mix, the rate would be 15.8 percent.

All told, nearly 25 million Americans were either unemployed, underemployed, or had given up looking for a job in April.

The ranks of involuntary part-timers has increased by 4.9 million in the past year, according to a May study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. Many economists now predict unemployment won’t peak until 2010. And since employers generally increase the hours of existing workers before hiring new ones, workers could be looking for full-time jobs for some time.

“You haven’t seen job loss numbers like this before,” said Heather Boushey, a senior economist at the Center for American Progress in Washington. “It’s been such a sharp dip down that you’ll see a lot of employers taking on temporary and part-time workers before they add employees.”

For tens of thousands of people like Noel, a part-time job isn’t their dream position, but it beats the alternative. A Pennsylvania native and veteran of the Silicon Valley boom-and-bust cycle, Noel settled in southern Vermont in 2003. He’s worked a series of jobs, commuting to his latest position as an auditor for a family-owned food and beverage distributor in Brattleboro before being laid off in early spring.

Vermont is in better shape than most states — but not by much. Real estate and tourism, pillars of the state’s economy over the past decade, are staggering.

Many parents who were frantic last year about sons and daughters serving in Iraq and Afghanistan — the state has sent a disproportionate share of its young people overseas — now are relieved their children have a steady job with benefits. Financial jobs are few. “The economy?” Noel asks between bites of a bison burger in a tiny diner. “You just don’t know if it’s ever going to come back. We may never have it so good again.”

When the Census Bureau offered him a part-time job mapping houses nearly an hour from his Windham home, Noel jumped at it. The money, between $10 and $25 per hour plus 55 cents per mile, was a big factor. But Noel said he also wanted to be part of a larger community effort, and the 2010 Census is nothing if not a large community effort.

When the first numbers are released in December 2010, the Census Bureau will have spent more than $11 billion and hired about 1.2 million temporary employees. The government conducts its Census every decade to determine the number of congressional seats assigned to each state, but the figures collected also help the government decide where to spend billions of dollars for the poor and disabled, where to build new schools and prisons, and how state legislative boundaries should be designed.

It hasn’t been the perfect job — that would be a full-time position with benefits — but Noel says the Census job worked out well. It eased the pain of being unemployed, giving him something to do, and made him realize his entire life doesn’t have to be about financial management.

“It’s just statistics,” said Noel, “but it’s important.”

But last week, he was unemployed again, a victim of the Census Bureau’s efficiency. Since the government was able to draw from a well-qualified but mostly out-of-work pool of applicants, the work done by more than 140,000 field employees went far more quickly than expected.

“We’ve always done well, but this time around was amazing,” said Stephen L. Buckner, a Census Bureau spokesman. “It’s a tough economic time.”

For some temporary workers, the outlook is brighter. Ian Gunn spent five weeks “being paid to hike. It was great.” Gunn, an 18-year-old high school senior heading to Renssalaer Polytechnic Institute next year to study computer science, hopes for a better economy when he graduates, one that offers more security than a series of part-time jobs.

“It’s going to take time,” he said, “but I’ve got four more years.”

Noel, though, is uncertain about the future. It’s possible he’ll be called back to work later in the fall for the final push. The Census Bureau expects to send roughly 1.2 million workers out to count people who don’t return their questionnaires; the hiring will push down unemployment numbers for several months during that period.

For now, Noel says, he and his wife are living without frills. He looks for another job and she runs Green Mountain Chef, a catering business near Stratton Mountain. Demand has slowed dramatically since the economic meltdown began, as it has for most tourism-dependent businesses in Vermont.

Noel hopes to avoid being a statistic for too long. Unemployment insurance will give him about $425 per week — enough to pay the mortgage, and maybe the health insurance bill. Right now, the couple pays about $280 per month, but that will climb to $850 in September, when his government-subsidized COBRA policy expires.

“I hope something comes up,” he says. “But there’s not an awful lot out there.”