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March 2011, Vol. 134, No. 3
The 2010 Census: the employment impact of counting the Nation
Emily Richards is an economist with the Current Employment Statistics program in the Office of Employment and Unemployment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The 2010 Census count marked the addition of 564,000 temporary, intermittent workers to payrolls; 2010 Census hiring masked the underlying trends in Current Employment Statistics estimates.
Every 10 years, the U.S. Census Bureau carries out a count of every resident in the United States, including Puerto Rico and the U.S. island territories, as mandated by the United States Constitution.1 To accomplish this task, the Census Bureau hires a large number of temporary workers for short periods. As a result, some employment estimates from the Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey are affected.2 Historically—and most recently in 2010, a year following the end of one of the deepest U.S. recessions ever—the ability to accurately account for the impact of these temporary, intermittent census workers and gauge underlying employment trends has been vital.
During the most recent recession (between December 2007 and June 2009),3 employment in nonfarm establishments fell by 7.5 million. Although the rate of job losses slowed in the second half of 2009, an additional 1.2 million jobs were cut by the end of that year. In 2010, employment growth resumed, and nearly 1 million positions were added to payrolls, about 13 percent of the jobs lost during the recession. Although employment did grow during the year, the effect of 2010 Census employment masked underlying trends within the economy on a month-to-month basis because a large number of workers were hired early in the year to work on the 2010 Census and then let go as work on the census wound down. (See chart 1.)
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1 See “One Year Out Facts/Statistics” (U.S. Census Bureau, no date), on the Internet at 2010.census.gov/news/press-kits/one-year-out/about-one-year-out/one-year-out-facts-statistics.html (visited Mar. 8, 2011). The census will include everyone living in “all 50 states, Washington, D.C., American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.” People will be counted at their usual place of residence on April 1, 2010. An accurate census count is necessary for many reasons. First and foremost, the population within a State determines the number of seats which that State holds within the U.S. House of Representatives. But also, the information obtained from the census is used to determine how Federal funding is spent on hospitals, job training centers, schools, senior centers, public-works projects, and emergency services. (See “Why It’s Important” (U.S. Census Bureau, no date), on the Internet at 2010.census.gov/2010census/about/why-important.php (visited Mar. 8, 2011).)
2 The Current Employment Statistics (CES) program is a monthly survey of about 140,000 businesses and government agencies representing approximately 440,000 individual worksites. For more information on the program’s concepts and methodology, see “Technical Notes to Establishment Data Published in Employment and Earnings” (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Mar. 4, 2011), on the Internet at www.bls.gov/web/empsit.supp.toc.htm#technote (visited Jan. 11, 2011). To access CES data, see “Current Employment Statistics – CES (National)” (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, no date), on the Internet at www.bls.gov/ces (visited Jan. 11, 2011). The CES data used in this article are seasonally adjusted unless otherwise noted.
3 Recessions are identified by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER). According to the NBER, the most recent recession began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009. The previous two recessions were, respectively, from March 2001 to November 2001 and from July 1990 to March 1991. (See “U.S. Business Cycle Expansions and Contractions” (National Bureau of Economic Research, Sept. 20, 2010), on the Internet at www.nber.org/cycles/cyclesmain.html (visited Mar. 8, 2011).)
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