Despite being 'a bit tougher,' U.S. Census Bureau halfway to recruitment goal

David Floyd • Jan 26, 2020 at 8:52 PM

Out of a target of more than 3,000 applicants in Washington, Carter and Sullivan counties, the U.S. Census Bureau has recruited about half of the temporary employees it’s hoping to pick up in advance of the 2020 census.

“Our challenge right now is to get the message out that this work is short-term, very flexible, it pays well and it’s a service to your community that will pay off for the next 10 years,” Kevin Flanary, a partnership specialist with the Philadelphia Regional Census Center, which oversees Tennessee, said Friday.

Flanary said he doesn’t have the ability to compare numbers to previous census years, but anecdotally, he said officials have been hearing that recruitment has been a “bit tougher” this year.

“In 2010 we had more people out of work who could take this on,” he said. “Today a very low unemployment rate has made finding people with the time to devote to census operation ... difficult.”

In Northeast Tennessee, Flanary said the Census Bureau is looking for census takers and supervisors who will interview households that have not responded to the census online, by phone or in writing.

“Most will travel to neighborhoods assigned on the day and time they are available,” he said.

Flanary said census field supervisors will support and conduct on-the-job training for census takers. They may also follow up in situations where census takers have encountered issues, like not gaining entry to a restricted area.

He said dozens of recruiters have been spread throughout the state. They’re holding job fairs, passing out information, setting up information tables at public events and reaching out to schools, senior centers, employment offices, libraries and other locations.

He said the agency is also working with local complete count committees for assistance in reaching out to communities about jobs. In Washington County, there are two complete count committees: One 15-member committee composed of leaders from across the county and another 20-member committee focused on ETSU.

The Census Bureau has also been running advertising campaigns and paid social media campaigns to promote some of the available job opportunities. The organization has also been sending postcards to residences.

“In some regions, hourly pay rates have increased to entice a higher number of applicants,” Flanary said.

The Census Bureau uses data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages to come up with individual pay rates for each county. In Washington County, Flanary said the pay rate for census takers increased by $3 to $16.50 an hour this month. Sullivan County pay rates increased by $5.50 to $19.50 an hour, and Carter County’s pay rate remained at $13.50.

He said most census jobs pay between $14 and $23 per hour. The jobs are paid weekly. He said all census workers also receive paid training and mileage reimbursement of 58 cents per mile.

Pay rates for different locations can be found at 2020census.gov/jobs/pay-and-locations.

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