Census Bureau Scraps Plans to Hire Temporary Workers
The 2008 census dress rehearsal is under way, but temporary jobs offered for follow-up enumeration in the field have vanished.
Short-form questionnaires for the dress rehearsal went into the mail last weekend to households in Moore County and eight other counties surrounding Fort Bragg.
Laura McClettie, partnership and data services specialist in the Charlotte office of the Census Bureau, says the dress rehearsal is continuing as planned, but there will be no follow-up visits to households that do not promptly return questionnaires.
The last-minute change, announced in low-key fashion by the Census Bureau, comes as a blow to an estimated thousand people who either thought they had been hired for part-time temporary work or who had applied for positions throughout the region.
For more than a year, the Census Bureau, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, had been widely advertising the jobs and even assigned recruiters to the region to attract job applicants and to publicize cooperation with the trial run in preparation for the 2010 population census.
The need for qualified people to do the work was so acute that at last report, the hourly wage was raised to more than $15 for crew supervisors and to $13.75 for some field enumerators.
McClettie said the names of individuals who had received the nod for enumerator positions will be filed for consideration in the fall when the bureau begins work on the 2010 census. She said the bureau will be hiring people to work in advance of the 2010 census and during the period when the decennial nose count is officially taken.
About 50 people are still working in the special office in Fayetteville, but they are the only employees directly involved in the dress rehearsal at this time.
The change in plans was abrupt, coming after a meeting of the Moore County Complete Count Committee last week at the Agriculture Center in Carthage. The committee, composed of local leaders, was formed at the urging of the Census Bureau and was administered through the Moore County Planning Department. As late as the April 9 committee meeting, census personnel were continuing to recruit enumerators for the dress rehearsal and were actively looking for additional sites to hold training sessions for follow-up workers.
The census agency did not give an explanation for dropping the field work for the dress rehearsal. Earlier it was announced that dress rehearsal enumerators would not use the hand-held computers that had been publicized throughout the operation as a convenient and accurate way to handle the follow-up work.
Census personnel reported several weeks ago that the hand-held computers would not be used because serious questions had arisen about their use and accuracy.
Field enumerators were being sought to visit households that do not fill out the census questionnaires and return them in the provided envelope. Census publicity emphasized the fact that if the public does not want someone calling at their door, they should fill out the questionnaire and return it as soon as possible.
Now, it appears there will be no door-knocking operation after the May 1 census dress rehearsal target date comes and goes.
"We're still urging everyone to fill out the forms and return them in the mail," McClettie said Thursday morning.
She said it should take no more than minutes for most people to complete the questionnaires. No one is receiving long forms this year, and the questionnaires contain nothing more than a few basic questions about residents of each household.
"We're still in test mode," McClettie said. "We're not using hand-held computers and we're not sending people out to knock on doors."
The Fayetteville area is one of two areas selected for the dress rehearsal, scheduled to test methods for use in 2010 when the constitutionally-mandated decennial population census is taken. The other area is in San Joaquin County in California.
Census data are important because they are used for numerous government and private operations. Population figures are used to apportion congressional and state legislative districts and to allocate funding for grants and miscellaneous operations.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at 947-4962 or by e-mail at florence @thepilot.com.
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