WASHINGTON, Feb. 19, 2010 -- Temporary help is on the way for the country's battered job market, thanks to the upcoming U.S. Census.
The study also predicts that Census Bureau hiring will cause the country's unemployment rate to drop by several-tenths of a percentage point this spring. Census spending, the report also forecasts, will boost the nation's gross domestic product by 1/10 of a percentage point during the first quarter of this year and by 2/10 of a percentage point during the second quarter.
"The Census has a very positive effect on the economy," Rebecca Blank, Under Secretary for Economic Affairs at the Commerce Department, said in an interview with ABC News. "And the hope, of course, is that this is going to be hitting just as the prime economic growth and employment are picking up, so that it will help that acceleration."
In all, the Census Bureau is hiring about 1.2 million temporary workers this year, with 800,000 of those people coming onboard in April and May. Due to the short-term nature of these jobs, not all of them will show up in the Labor Department's employment reports, but the $14.7 billion once-a-decade project is still poised to provide a big boost – albeit temporarily – to a nation currently grappling with a 9.7 unemployment rate.
"With the unemployment rate expected to be well above those witnessed during the previous Census," the report says, "the effect of large changes in temporary 2010 Census employment on the unemployment rate may be more noticeable in 2010."
However some analysts are preaching caution.
"With the government set to create some one million temp jobs to conduct the 2010 Census in the next few months, it's hard to see how job growth won't resume soon," Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody's Economy.com, noted recently. "Yet there are reasons to be nervous that job growth won't revive in earnest or may even peter out after Census temp jobs fade this summer."
Census Bureau Spokesman Addresses Previously Misspent Census Funds
"A lack of credit, particularly among small businesses, and a loss of confidence across all businesses threaten to short-circuit the job machine," Zandi stated. "The lack of credit is evident in the collapse in credit-card lending, commercial and industrial loans outstanding, and surveys of small businesses and bank lenders. Large businesses can tap the commercial bond market, where issuance is about as strong as it has ever been, but many small businesses can't obtain loans while their community banks remain under severe capital constraints and tight regulatory oversight."
Earlier this week a government watchdog found that the Census Bureau had squandered around $5.6 million dollars in the build-up to this spring's nationwide count by paying over 15,000 employees who never worked even a full day for the government.
When the Bureau sent out over 140,000 workers last fall to update mailing lists and maps, 10,235 of them did not work at all but earned about $3.4 million for attending training and another 5,028 employees raked in $2.2 million but worked less than a single day, according to the Commerce Department's inspector general Todd Zinser in a report released Tuesday.
A Census Bureau spokesperson responded that "recruits showed up for training at rates much higher than experienced in the 2000 census and fewer quit work after the first few days on the job." The spokesperson said the Bureau has since made changes to procedures and controls to better manage census-taker training, staffing needs, and travel expenses.