Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Employment impact of the 2010 census

On April 2, Good Friday, the monthly labor report will likely deliver the good news that the nation's unemployment rate has dropped to 9.2%, maybe even 9.0%.  Prepare yourself.  The media will slobber all over the news and laud the President for breaking the back of the recession.  Don't celebrate too much:
The U.S. Census Bureau expects to add up to 750,000 workers to its payroll by May, a hiring binge that could knock the unemployment rate down by as much as a half-point.

The once-a-decade census is coming at the best possible time for President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats, who have taken political lumps for more than a year over a jobless rate that stands at 9.7 percent.

Some think the administration will get good news as soon as the next monthly labor report, which will be released the first Friday in April.

“This is the best-timed census you could ever dream of,” said Heidi Shierholz, who tracks the labor market at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. She believes the March unemployment report will show the economy added jobs instead of subtracting them.

If it happens, it will be only the second positive-numbers jobs report in more than a year. But in this case, it could lead to further positive job numbers in the months ahead.

Census officials warn that politicians shouldn’t get too excited.

Hires for the 2010 census are temporary and part-time; the average employee works 19 hours a week for six weeks, according to Wendy Button, chief of the decennial recruiting branch of the Census Bureau.
Three quarters of a million people is a lot of people.  But six weeks does not a job make.  Rebel Traders developed the interesting graphic above comparing the employment effects of the 2000 and projected 2010 Censuses.

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