Census Bureau raises pay in hopes of hiring 500K people

PHILADELPHIA -- The Census Bureau is going on a hiring binge.

The agency said it plans to hire 500,000 people in the coming months as the 2020 Census gets underway. It's actually less than the 857,000 employees hired for the 2010 Census.

The workers will hit the streets, collecting population data the country will rely on for the next decade.

“It informs and impacts so many things, especially representation and resources and funding for the community,” said Morris Hobson, Philly Counts’ coalition manager.

While the 2020 Census doesn’t start until April, a nationwide recruiting effort has already started.

“Well that’s perfect for me. Cause my life needs to have some kind of purpose,” said Donna Blackwell of West Philadelphia.

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Blackwell has been working as a cook at a nursing home but is looking for another job to earn extra cash.

“I’m mainly just trying to do something different with my life. Something, so I can go back to school at night,” Blackwell said.

Most of the positions available are Census taker jobs, which are part-time, and will last several weeks. Census takers knock on the doors of homeowners who have not yet filled out the questionnaire.

Blackwell was one of a couple dozen people who recently applied for the position at a Census job fair in Philadelphia.

But with half a million openings, the Census Bureau is actively looking for new recruits.

“We have areas throughout the country, and in our region, where we are experiencing fewer people applying for the jobs than in the past,” said Fernando Armstrong, the Regional Director for the Census Bureau in Philadelphia.

Armstrong thinks the country’s low unemployment rate could be to blame. The unemployment rate is at about 3.6 percent, compared with nearly 10 percent when the last Census took place in 2010.

In response, the Census Bureau is raising the hourly pay in more than half the country.

“We’re paying good, good salaries. Very competitive salaries,” said Armstrong.

In Philadelphia, Census workers make $25.50 an hour.

It's money Blackwell said she hopes to use to help pay for her culinary degree.

“I want to one day open my own restaurant,” she said.

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Armstrong says there’s no deadline to apply, and applications will still be accepted after the Census starts in April.

“The Census jobs are not just another job,” Armstrong said. “It’s a very important job that we only get to do once every 10 years.”