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January 8, 2000
Surfeit Of Temp Jobs At Census Bureaus
R S Shankar
In what is described as "the largest peacetime mobilization" in American history, the Census Bureau launched on January 5 a nationwide recruiting campaign to find workers to fill thousands of short-term employment slots during Census 2000.
The Bureau is looking for, among others, students who have a good sense of mathematics and statistics. People with a knowledge of Spanish, Russian, Bengali and Urdu will be in an advantageous position. Many jobs are available in rural areas, but in cities such as New York and Washington, at least 30,000 temporary workers will be hired.
Census 2000, with a budget nearing $ 7 billion, is also hiring green card holders for the first time. Given the booming national economy, Census 2000 is finding it difficult to get temporary workers, and hence has started advertising the jobs on radio and the print media.
The jobs pay well above the minimum wage. The hourly wages range from $ 8.25 to $ 18.50 nationally.
To adequately staff the temporary local census offices in every state, a pool of some three million applicants will be needed, census officials said.
Officials said Census 2000 jobs are ideal for retirees, students and others seeking part-time work. For the first time, most federal employees will be allowed to work on the census outside their normal work hours.
People hired will work primarily out of the 520 local census offices across the country. Generally, each of the local census offices will need about 1,000 workers, most of them during a period of four to six weeks.
The largest number will be needed beginning in mid-April when census workers visit households that do not return their Census 2000 forms by mail.
During the course of census operations, there will be more than 860,000 employment slots to be filled. Some workers will be hired for one slot, and then rehired later to fill another slot.
A General Accounting Office report last month cited "significant operational uncertainties" surrounding the 2000 count, including whether the Census will meet its goal of having 61 per cent of American households mail back their forms. If not, the agency must hire more people to knock on missed doors.
Director Kenneth Prewitt was quoted in The Washington Post as saying that if that happens the agency will ask Congress for more money to hire additional follow-up workers -- as it was forced to do in the 1990 census.
In seeking greater involvement of community organizations and volunteers, Prewitt also noted that "the stakes are very high in the census" since, in addition to its constitutional purpose of apportioning seats in the US House of Representatives, the census also is used in state legislative redistricting and to help determine the share of federal program funds made available to state, local and tribal governments over the next decade.
Data gathered will affect decisions on many matters of local importance, including education, health care, employment, housing, transportation and the environment.
"Hiring and retaining well-qualified workers will be critical towards achieving a fair and accurate count," said Commerce Secretary William M Daley.
For more information call the agency's toll-free number, 1-888-325-7733, or visit http://www.census.gov/jobs2000/www/where.html.
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