The largest count of individuals living in the United States is less than one year away, and organizers are already looking for more hands to help.
The 2020 Census will be hiring about 1,500 people in the El Paso and Lubbock sectors to undertake the count, which kicks off on Census Day, April 1, 2020. Full-time, part-time and volunteer workers will be needed for everything from address verifications to canvassing and community outreach.
The goal is to count every person in the country. But getting an accurate count in the El Paso region will be especially challenging, said Sergio Ramirez III, media specialist for the U.S. Census Bureau. About 30% of El Pasoans did not respond to the survey in 2010.
And a lot is at stake. The once-a-decade count has far-reaching applications and is used to determine things like federal funding allocations and congressional districts.
Pay for the El Paso census jobs will start at about $15 per hour, Ramirez said, adding that the city’s tight labor market will make hiring a challenge. El Paso’s unemployment rate was 3.9% in April, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Pauline Nuñez, a partnership coordinator with the U.S. Census Bureau in Dallas, said El Paso is not the only place with a tight job market.
“It’s a challenge everywhere,” Nuñez said. “Some of the states are very prosperous, like Colorado, Arizona and Texas.”
Hiring in places like Midland and Odessa has proven especially difficult because the census is competing against the booming oil industry, Nuñez said.
Even so, the El Paso sector has successfully filled a majority of the 50 managerial positions that will administer the census to 16 counties in West Texas, Nuñez added.
“We have to be creative and look for people who might want to add to their income,” she said.
At a workshop on Wednesday in Downtown El Paso, elected officials and other community members brainstormed ways to reach the maximum amount of people to take the survey.
“We’re hoping to get priorities out of this and to create strategies around those priorities,” Nuñez said.
Ramirez said local workers are important in the count efforts because they know their community best.
“We don’t want to outsource the El Paso Jobs,” he said. “We want El Paso natives in El Paso jobs.”
The census is hiring workers on a rolling basis. Address canvassing begins in August, and workers will need to have a car and a valid driver’s license for canvassing neighborhoods.
The Census Bureau openings are likely to attract high quality candidates from the region, said Tom Fullerton, an economist at the University of Texas at El Paso.
“It is interesting work for a federal agency that provides good experience at fairly competitive salary ranges,” Fullerton said. “Many university students will jump at the opportunity to gain this type of experience.”
Though the Census Bureau is working hard to get a complete count, the possible inclusion of a citizenship question on the survey has some worried about participation rates.
The federal government is pushing to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census, saying the question would bolster efforts to combat voter fraud. But opponents of the question say it could discourage millions of individuals from returning the survey out of fear of how that data might be used.
Ramirez emphasized that census data is completely confidential, and any data misuse is subject to significant fines and prosecution. He said part of their job is to educate survey-takers about the confidentiality.
By law, the census can only be used to generate statistics, and the data cannot be used against any respondent by any government agency.
The Census Bureau will be hiring for the August address canvassing through June. Ramirez said the bureau will constantly be looking for clerical positions before the census and will be hiring more field positions as 2020 approaches.
For more information, go to 2020census.gov/jobs.
Email El Paso Inc. reporter Sara Sanchez at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (915) 534-4422, ext. 105.