Sunday, December 20, 2009

NYT: Economists See a Lift in 2010 Census

As I am forming my thoughts on the roadmap for 2010, one must be very aware of the effect of the 2010 census in temporarily shaping economic reports in an environment where those on Wall Street act within milliseconds to economic data, and almost no one bothers to look behind the curtain.  With 1.2 million jobs "created" in spring/summer 2010, yet another facade of prosperity should wash upon Wall Street - as 1/7th of all those left unemployed since 2007 suddenly find jobs.  I can imagine the tears of joy streaming down the face of CNBC anchors coming this spring and summer as the "self reinforcing" recovery arrives. Just don't ask what happens post census....

Via NYTimes:
  • Next year’s census will not only count people, it will also put money in millions of pockets and potentially create a well-timed economic spark Not in more than a half-century has the United States census been conducted amid such high rates of joblessness. The 1.2 million census-taking jobs may be temporary, but they pay well, and economists say they will provide a significant lift.  “These are real jobs with good solid hourly pay,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s
  • Mr. Zandi added: It’s a form of stimulus. It’s like infrastructure spending, or W.P.A. in the Depression. It effectively does the same thing. It’s not on the same scale, but it is large enough, and it will make a difference.”
  • Mr. Zandi, along with many other economists, believes the nation will stop shedding jobs in the spring, and by the time these census jobs wind down over the summer, the private sector will be poised to begin adding jobs again.  “When we look back historically, the census will mark the end of the downdraft of employment,” he said.
  • Recruiting is just beginning for the jobs. The Census Bureau began adding temporary offices across the country in the fall and has recently been holding open houses to encourage people to sign up for a half-hour test that is the first step to a job. It has also set up a Web site with information for job seekers. About 13,000 workers were hired this month.
  • The peak of the bureau’s hiring, however, will be in late April and early May when about 800,000 people are expected to be on its payroll, most of them as field workers, knocking on doors to follow up with households that did not return census forms mailed in March. The positions vary in length and pay, but the average job is 20 hours a week for six weeks, paying $10 to $25 an hour.
Reality check for what is happening on "Main Street" - outside of Washington D.C. at least.  On the plus side, having census workers chock full of Master's level degrees should mean the most accurate census ever. ;)
  • Lee Ann Morning, office manager of the bureau’s Denver office, said her staff was caught off guard after an open house last December that received some news coverage.  Every phone in the office was ringing, and additional staff members were called in to handle the volume. Hundreds of calls rolled over to voicemail, which quickly filled up. Many callers were unable to get through. “It was that kind of overwhelming response,” Ms. Morning said.
  • Similar scenes across the country surprised census officials. Besides the volume, the caliber of the applicants was unprecedented.

America - as you have shipped away your productive capability over the past few decades to turn to the "house flipping" "financing" and "shopping" new paradigm "services" economy, here are the results - some of your brightest minds in a desperate grab for a 6 week government job:
  • “We saw certainly college degrees, master’s degrees, Ph.D.’s, doctors, all kinds of people you wouldn’t think would be looking for a temporary part-time position,” Ms. Morning said.
Which is why I keep harping once the cyclical "recovery" takes place we're going to look around and see a very structurally broken job market, in which there are no easy answers (outside of more public workers, or pseudo government workers in healthcare and education) - until the government can create the next full blown bubble. [Dec 8, 2007: Do the Bottom 80% of Americans Stand a Chance?]

A situation best summarized in this one line in another NYT story:
  • Those who want a good job have nothing to choose from,” said Mr. Edwards, a former copier technician at Xerox, whose ancestors settled the area after the Revolutionary War. The best chances for employment, he added, lie in the sprawling prison system, government agencies, hospitals and schools, “and there’s nothing in between.”
Bingo - and where does the source of funding for all those jobs come from?  Ponzi. [Dec 15, 2008: The Economic "Recovery"]

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