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 ‘unemployment rate’

Doubts over 2010 Census’ ability to jumpstart economy

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

The U.S. government is hiring about 1.2 million temporary workers for the 2010 Census, but it’s questionable whether those positions will give a major, sustained boost to the economy.

Though news outlets such as the New York Times and Bloomberg have reported on expectations that census hiring will jumpstart an economic recovery, others, such as Daniel Indiviglio in the Atlantic, are now asserting that the rebound will be weak at best.

As we’ve noted before, these positions are temporary — about six weeks — so they don’t provide the long-term income that could lead to increased spending or significant improvements in the unemployment rate, now at 10 percent. Indiviglio also makes some interesting points about the nature of the census jobs:

What’s worse, these jobs are utterly unproductive. These aren’t manufacturing jobs where these individuals are creating products to be sold overseas. They’re not infrastructure jobs that will improve roads and make commerce more efficient. They’re not even construction jobs to weatherize homes and help drive down U.S. energy costs. These workers will be walking from door to door and taking a count. Nothing will be produced except for some statistics, with no direct economic value.

Finally, census work might be better than no work, but that’s all it’s better than. These are likely jobs that will contribute very little to most of these individuals’ skill sets and career development. That means, other than perhaps timing, they’ll likely be in no better position to get a good job after the census ends than they were beforehand.

That said, the Census Bureau needs workers and, in this economy, it’s hard to be too critical of officials and economists touting the jobs the census brings, even if the claims of a major economic impact are dubious. As Bloomberg notes, the census is still likely to be the biggest single source of new jobs in the coming months:

The surge will probably dwarf any hiring by private employers early in 2010 as companies delay adding staff until they are convinced the economic recovery will be sustained.

Tough economy aids search for census workers

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

As Census Bureau director Robert M. Groves said in a conference call last month, the recession is helpful to the Bureau because it means a larger, and more qualified, applicant pool.

The nationwide unemployment rate was 10 percent in November 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (new data is scheduled to be released tomorrow). That number, Time reports, is higher than any census year since 1940.

Time also reports how the Bureau is handling the influx of applications:

In this slow economy, the Census has been overwhelmed by both the quantity and quality of applicants. “We’re getting a lot of people who are professionals, people who have been laid off from the large companies, people with master’s degrees and higher,” says Lillie Eng-Hirt, who manages the Census office in Memphis, Tenn. One man was so grateful at being offered work, she relates, that he had the Census employee hiring him in tears after hearing his story of going without a job for so long.

Enthusiasm about the jobs has been so great that the Census pulled plans to advertise them nationally. Last spring, the Census did run ads when it was hiring canvassers for the summer — people who walk up and down every block in the U.S. to verify each address. The Census was hoping to get 700,000 applications in order to fill 200,000 spots. Instead, the bureau received 1.2 million. (Those applicants will be considered for the new positions too.) This time around, says decennial recruiting chief Wendy Button, the Census will run advertisements only in areas where it anticipates having trouble filling positions, such as inner cities, extremely rural areas and neighborhoods with large percentages of non-English-speaking residents.

And applicants aren’t the only thing the Cenus Bureau has a surplus of this year: The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports that the Bureau is having no trouble finding office space due to high vacancy rates. The paper says:

And the feds are finding plenty of cheap temporary places for desks, in a market in which roughly 20 percent of all office space stands silent.

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.”