Local News

Census still looking for workers in N.C.

Posted February 19, 2010 12:42 p.m. EST
Updated February 19, 2010 2:39 p.m. EST

— U.S. Census Bureau officials say that they have having trouble filling slots for temporary workers in North Carolina.

Officials couldn't say Friday how many of the more than 24,000 jobs haven't been filled, but there are open positions in 39 counties, including Orange, Lee, Pender, Person, Robeson, Warren and Wayne counties.

The regional office in Durham, which administers Orange County, has planned to hire 1,448 workers, and the regional office in Wilmington, which covers Robeson, has planned to hire 2,049. Many of those positions are still open.

"A lot of people were surprised" at the number of jobs that haven't been filled, said Caitlin Winwood, with the Office of State Budget and Management. "Apparently, it's going on in a lot of states."

Bob Coats, the governor's census liaison, suggested there could be a simple reason why positions are still open: Job seekers just haven't heard about the work.

"Part of it is awareness. They may not realize that there are census jobs out there," he said. "There are jobs still available."

The Census Bureau is hiring workers to go door-to-door collecting information from households that don't mail back the 10-question census form. The jobs will last from four to six weeks and pay $11.50 to $18.25 an hour.

One of job seekers' main worries seems to be losing their unemployment benefits if they take a temporary job, Coats said.

However, although benefits would stop while people are working for the census, they could reapply for the benefits to resume afterward, if the recipient hasn't already run out, he said.

In other cases, many job seekers don't meet the qualifications or simply don't have reliable transportation to go door-to-door, he said.

Among other qualifications, applicants must pass a written test, have a driver's license and be a U.S. citizen. Permanent residents and those with work visas will be hired only if they have language skills that U.S. citizens who apply haven't possessed.

Job seekers can find information about applying for a census job on the Census Bureau's Web site or by calling 1-866-861-2010. The information is also available via the state Employment Security Commission.