Friday, July 2, 2010

A Note on Census Hiring

I'll be back later with some more analysis of this morning's rather dismal jobs report, but wanted to share a quick though on the temporary census positions that accounted for most of this morning's reported job losses.

You'll remember that in May the U.S. Census Bureau added 411,000 temporary positions to execute the decennial counting of Americans for representation and apportionment. A number of sources, most notably many conservatives, cried foul, saying these positions, because they were temporary and public sector, did not count. Only private sector jobs, of which there was a net gain of 41,000 in May, should be accepted as actual progress.

In June, we lost 225,000 of those temporary, public sector positions as the census presumably went forward fairly smoothly and more than half the work was finished in less than a month. The private sector added 83,000 jobs. Surprisingly, the same individuals who cried foul at counting the addition of census jobs last month are those advocating most loudly for this morning's numbers reflecting the loss of those jobs to be the most important story of the month.

To me, this smacks of hypocrisy. You can't have it both ways. Either the positions should be completely discounted or they should be viewed as what they are: jobs held by real people that offered a brief, limited reprieve from joblessness.

Either way you slice it, two things are clear: those workers are now back in the ranks of the unemployed, which is bad news, and we should expect more of these losses in the coming months as the nearly 200,000 remaining census workers also wrap up their work.

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