Tuesday, May 18, 2010

My Royal Runaround with the Census Bureau

By John Crudele

The Census Bureau certainly knows how to count. That is, after all, what the folks there do for a living. But is Census double counting when it comes to jobs created in the latest polling of America? Or triple counting? Or maybe even counting the same job as many as forty times?

Last week I got a call from Naomi Cohn, an unemployed lawyer from Brooklyn, who decided to apply for a temporary job as an $18.75 an hour enumerator with the Census.

As she told me -- and later wrote in the Sunday Post on May 9 -- she succeeded. But after three days of paid training, she was only called for 10 hours of work over two days. And nothing since. No explanation.

Cohn said this wasn't unusual. Many of the 80 others in her training class weren't getting many hours either.

Granted, this could be quite innocent. Maybe Cohn couldn't perfect her door-knocking technique -- two soft raps followed by another hard one.

Or, maybe something more devious is going on. Since the creation of jobs is and always has been such a hot political issue, I'll go with the devious explanation every time.

After checking I discovered this. As far as the Labor Department is concerned, a new job is created whenever someone gets as little as one hour of pay for work. In April, for instance, the Labor Department reported that 290,000 new jobs were created by the economy.

There's no distinction between a one-hour job minding someone's front desk or a 40-hour shift at the local coal mine. Of those 290,000 jobs, 66,000 were temporary positions created by Census.

So the big question: if the Census Bureau had been giving Naomi and other workers a reasonable number of working hours, how many fewer new jobs would there have been created in April?

Slice one 40-hour job into 40 one-hour jobs and you might be able to report significant employment gains. It'll all be nonsense, of course.

Read the rest here.

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