The last census in 2010 came during the Great Recession, and the unemployed flocked to snap up the temporary jobs it created. This year, the count that begins next month arrives during record low unemployment — and more than 3,000 census jobs in Utah remain unfilled.
“We’re still hiring both for part-time and full-time positions,” said Susan Sharp, area census office manager for the northern half of Utah. She adds that just in Salt Lake County, “we are at 77% percent of our hiring goal.”
Other counties have hit as low as about 23% of their hiring goals.
“The counties that are hurting on recruitment and that we really need to give more love to are Garfield, Daggett, Rich and Summit,” said Coralys M. Ruiz Jiménez, Utah media specialist for the Census Bureau.
Sharp said the Census Bureau aims to hire about 17,481 workers total in Utah total this year, and has hired 14,420 so far — meaning it has 3,061 openings.
It comes after Utah just set an all-time low unemployment rate at 2.3%. A U.S. Chamber of Commerce study also recently said that for every three open jobs in Utah, only about two workers are available. That’s the fifth lowest ratio in America.
The Census Bureau jobs in Salt Lake County pay $18 an hour. The pay in other counties ranges from $16 to $20 an hour. The Census Bureau also will cover mileage expenses for work. People may apply online at 2020census.gov/jobs.
Census employees have been working in Utah for more than a year, doing such things as verifying addresses and looking for new construction that had yet to be put in the Census Bureau’s address files.
“For example, we sent a worker to a [census] block that we anticipated would have 1,200 addresses. He ended up adding another 3,600 — so we’ve found areas with extreme growth,” Sharp said.
In mid-March, Utahns will begin receiving postcards inviting them to go online to fill out census forms, or to call by phone to do so. It is the first time the Census Bureau is using the internet as the primary method for Americans to fill out forms.
Census enumerators will begin next month to do physical counts in “group quarters,” such as college dorms, nursing homes and prisons. Sharp said many workers then will be sent to rural areas that lack firm street addresses.
Finally, Sharp said enumerators will be sent to follow up on those who do not fill out their forms, “which will take us through most of the summer.”
Sharp noted that the Census Bureau tries to assign employees mostly to work near where they live, because familiar faces help improve trust and response rates. The bureau especially seeks workers who speak languages besides English to help where the language may be a barrier.