This time, it’s easier to hire for the census

EVERETT — When the government prepared to count everyone a decade ago, a lot of the people it hired changed their minds and walked off the job.

“Ten years ago, they were trying to find people who wanted to work,” Leland Dart, who manages the Everett office of the U.S. Census Bureau, said Thursday. “This time, that’s not an issue.”

Dart, who will be in charge of gathering census information this spring from Snohomish County to the Canadian border in Western Washington, is preparing to hire about 1,000 temporary, part-time workers throughout the northern Puget Sound area.

The pay for the jobs isn’t too bad.

Clerks make $13.25 an hour. Census takers who will work out of their homes will be paid $17.50 plus mileage.

Dart has already hired much of his basic staff of 75 people who will work full time. “They come from all walks of life,” he said. “I have one person who is an architect working as a clerk.”

Because there are so many people out of work, applicants have been “more educated and more motivated than in the past,” Dart said.

The last major census job was last spring, he noted, adding, “People didn’t quit. They wanted those jobs.”

The higher caliber of applicants for census jobs these days is a bit of a double-edge sword, Dart said. Applicants need to take a test to be hired, and the higher scores the agency is getting these days make it harder to find applicants in some neighborhoods.

“We need people to count in their own neighborhoods,” Dart said, explaining that residents are much more likely to give information to a neighbor than to someone they don’t know.

“We get a higher cooperation rate,” he said.

Dart said he will continue to hire full-time workers as the census ramps up, probably doubling the existing staff, but mostly what he needs are part-time workers who will start in late April or May gathering information near where they live.

The census data is important, he said, because it helps determine whether states deserve more representation in Congress and which areas get government grants. Just where the jobs will be depends in part on who doesn’t send in a census form, requiring someone to come by.

“I don’t know how many I’ll be hiring and where I will put them,” Dart said. “But we’re already testing like mad.”

Census jobs

The Everett office will host an open house to demonstrate how the Census operations will work from 1 to 3 p.m. Feb 3 at 1615 75th St., Suite 110.

It won’t take job applications then, and people don’t have to wait for the open house before applying for the mostly temporary, part-time work.

To apply, people should call 866-861-2010 for information on the nearest testing station. Tests are offered in Snohomish, Island, Skagit, San Juan and Whatcom counties.

Applicants must be at least 18 years old, have a Social Security number, be able to pass a background check and take a 30-minute test that measures knowledge, skills and abilities to handle a variety of census jobs.

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