Census Brings Bright Spot to Maryland's Gloomy Jobs Picture


SILVER SPRING (Jan. 22, 2010) - Hermine Duebsie needs this job. She holds her application and I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification Form in hand and waits for a proctor from the U.S. Census Bureau to administer a basic skills test.

The test, meant to be fairly simple—reading, basic math, map reading and following instructions—is a deciding factor in securing a part-time, six-to-10-week, interviewer's job with a flexible schedule and $18.50 an hour, a rate that varies by location.

"The pay is great, and it's a government job. I think this job is most important," said Duebsie, a Montgomery County Community College student with no other source of income.

The Census Bureau will create approximately 10,000 new jobs in Maryland, helping to stimulate the slow economy and providing a lift for struggling individuals like Duebsie facing a 7.3 percent unemployment rate.

Duebsie, 25, a native of Cameroon here on a Diversity Visa, joined a dozen other applicants of different ages and backgrounds scattered through the hallway of the White Oak Library basement in Silver Spring.

There's a good chance at least one will be hired from this pool of applicants, but they won't find out for several weeks.

An estimated 1.2 million to 1.4 million people will apply to work for the 2010 Census team nationally, said Joe Quartullo, area manager at the Philadelphia Regional Census Center. He estimates roughly half a million people will be hired nationwide.

The nine census offices in Maryland and two in the District are hiring 400 to 500 employees each starting Jan. 25 for preliminary ground work and to conduct group quarters advance visits, visits to group living facilities like college dorm rooms and prisons to notify management of their spring arrival, Quartullo said.

As field operations begin after Census Day on April 1, Quartullo estimates 10,000 new jobs will be available to Marylanders and 2,000 to 3,000 positions will be available in Washington.

The Census Bureau, Quartullo said, is looking for people from communities so that they can send them back to work in those communities.

"We want to make sure everyone is counted," said Quartullo. "Every person represents dollars coming to the states."

Approximately $400 billion in federal funds are distributed to the states based on census numbers.

And although the Maryland unemployment rate was reported at 7.3 percent in November 2009, according to the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, filling these temporary positions has proved challenging, said Tahira Henderson, assistant manager of recruiting at the Washington, D.C.-West office.

Henderson receives a 200 or so inquiries a day. However, she is looking for people from all different neighborhoods, and language and cultural barriers have created recruitment challenges, she said.

A recent hire herself, Henderson, 30, from the District, said she needed time to figure out what her next job was going to be.

"This gives me the opportunity to give lots of other people jobs," Henderson said. "And in tough economic times, a relatively simple test and an application for pretty competitive hourly pay is a great opportunity."

Henderson has been able to make several contacts through her position at the bureau, which she encourages new employees to do as well. They can work in the communities they live; avoid commuter headaches; work on flexible schedules with competitive pay rates and environments they are comfortable in.

The new job opportunities created by the Census Bureau may also help stimulate local consumer consumption.

"It should have some impact on the local economy. With a Maryland labor force of 2.5 million individuals, 10,000 is not a trivial amount," said Dr. Daraius Irani, director of the Regional Economic Studies Institute at Towson University.

Although most census jobs are temporary and part-time, the opportunities will allow the local economy to be better off than it is at present, Irani said. "It'll bridge that gap from today to what it could be in a year from now."

Capital News Service contributed to this report.

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