Census Jobs Ending

The temporary census jobs are wrapping up, and hundreds of thousands of newly unemployed workers will be pouring in to the already flooded job market:

Now, its decennial work largely done, the Census Bureau is shedding hundreds of thousands of workers — about 225,000 in just the last few weeks, enough to account for a jot or two in the unemployment rate, say federal economists. Most of those remaining will be gone by August; a few will last into September.

Usually the census has trouble getting enough people to stay on to finish the job. Not this year:

“Typically, at this point in the process, we’re losing a lot of people because they’re taking jobs,” said Kathleen Ludgate, the regional director in Boston. “I wish we had that problem now.”

Ms. Ludgate receives notes from departing workers, some by e-mail, others in ink. They thank her for the chance to learn something about themselves and their country. They write to say their confidence had picked up, that they can again meet the gaze of friends and neighbors.

These are the missives of hard-working people who found themselves in a tighter spot than they ever expected, and who came to view census work as a lifeline.

Many are middle-aged. The census offices in Providence and Bridgeport, Conn., offer a sea of gray-haired men and women in neat office garb. They work with an intensity that suggests they would rather concentrate on the task at hand than the fast-approaching end.

How will this affect the unemployment numbers? From The Atlantic:

According to these projections and the actual results in June, it would mean a summer of 329,000 net job losses. It could take until winter before the labor market gets those back through three months of net positive gains, unless jobs grow at a rate of more than 110,000 per month starting in September. That might not sound like much, but so far this year, only two months — March and April — have seen non-Census job growth exceed 100,000.

At this rate, millions of unemployed people are likely to be unemployed for years to come.

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Short Takes

The number of unemployment claims has fallen slightly.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits dropped 11,000 to a seasonally adjusted 448,000 in the week ended April 24, the Labor Department said.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected claims to fall to 445,000 from the previously reported 456,000, which was modestly revised up to 459,000 in Thursday’s report.


Though initial claims have resumed their downward trend interrupted by the Easter holiday, analysts worry the pace is too slow and underscores the fragility of private hiring.

Despite all of the manufactured controversy over the census, the Census Bureau reports the rate of returned forms is the same as in 2000, about 72%.

Beginning Saturday, 600,000 enumerators will go door-to-door to find the up to 48 million households that failed to respond.

A reminder of why the census is important.

Two Miners Missing in Kentucky. There was a collapse in the Webster County Coal Dokiti Mine:

Records show inspectors from the Kentucky Office of Mine Safety and Licensing have issued 31 orders to close sections of the mine or to shut down equipment because of safety violations since January 2009. Those records also show an additional 44 citations for safety violations that didn’t result in closure orders.

This is why The Protecting America’s Worker’s Act (pdf) is crucial.

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Census 2010

It’s April 1, the day that we are supposed to stop pushing that census form into the procrastination pile, actually fill it out, and return it.

So far, some midwestern states are way ahead of the rest of the country in getting those forms done.

With Thursday dubbed Census Day — the day the questionnaires are meant to capture as a snapshot — South Dakota, Wisconsin, Nebraska, North Dakota and Iowa are ranked the top five states by federal officials, because they have the highest participation rates in the census so far. People can send in the forms until mid-April, but the Midwest’s cooperativeness might rightly worry other regions.

After all, the census guides the federal government on decisions with lasting impact — like how many representatives states will have in Congress and how much federal money they win for their roads.

In the rural areas of Mississippi census workers and community groups are trying to improve the rate of census form returns.

Issaquena County and the entire Delta is plagued by poverty and illiteracy. People mistrust census takers for a variety of reasons, including a belief that the government is trying to catch them doing something illegal like misrepresenting the number of people in their household, which could affect benefits like food stamps, said Calvin Stewart, a Rolling Fork alderman, teacher, high school sports referee and spokesman for the town’s new antilitter campaign.

and more:

Mr. Stewart, the alderman, said he had been frustrated by Rolling Fork’s inability to win government grants, and said he believed an accurate census would help. Using maps that show which areas were undercounted 10 years ago, he has worked enclaves of elderly residents and poor apartment complexes, explaining again and again why the census is important.

In NY City volunteers are working to help cut through language barriers and suspicion, in order to get census forms filled out.

The work of volunteer groups helping the census is critical, and their success has often been measured in small victories. It might take hours to persuade Mexicans who illegally share an apartment on Staten Island to put all of their names on the form or days to persuade day laborers in western Queens that they should participate in the survey.

Illegal immigrants must be told, sometimes repeatedly, that the Census Bureau does not share information about individuals with any other government agency. And some immigrants and other New Yorkers need an explanation about why their taking a few minutes to fill out a form could translate into better schools, hospitals and transportation.

There’s an undercurrent of suspicion of the 2010 census, which has been aided and abetted by folks like Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and Fox entertainer Glenn Beck.

Beck worried that by not filling out the Census the government could take away his gun. Bachmann also continued to claim that the Census information could used to put Americans into internment camps.

Sigh. Census numbers help target needed funds for schools, hospitals, and roads. Census numbers determine how voting districts for states are configured. Those numbers can lead to redistricting, and more representation in Congress. Census data is a building block for research, reports, and writing on all manner of subjects.

For a look at what the census is all about, check out the Census 2010 website. You still have time to fill out that form. A few minutes of inconvenience for you may translate into funds to meet the needs of your community.