Thursday, July 19, 2018

Technical Note: Temporary Census Hiring and the Monthly Employment Report

by Bill McBride on 7/19/2018 04:05:00 PM

Most of the temporary hiring for the 2020 Census will happen in March, April and May of 2020. But some minor hiring will happen starting later this year.

Here is the historical data on temporary Census hiring since 1990.

For the monthly CES employment report, the BLS collects the data from Census, and adds the number of temporary workers to the total number of jobs reported for the month. The temporary Census data is not seasonally adjusted.

As an example, for May 2010, the BLS reported:

Total nonfarm payroll employment grew by 431,000 in May, reflecting the hiring of 411,000 temporary employees to work on Census 2010, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.
Those are real jobs, but they are not part of the business cycle - and they are very temporary, and they do not reflect the underlying trend of hiring.

So, for the May 2010 report, I reported: May Employment Report: 20K Jobs ex-Census, 9.7% Unemployment Rate. Some sites reported job gains of 431 thousand, and others reported private hiring only - but my view is the most helpful approach is to just remove the Census hiring from the headline number.

So starting in a few months, I'll once again report the employment number ex-Census.

Another interesting question is: How does Census hiring impact the unemployment rate (from the CPS)? I think the answer is very little.

I think these workers come mostly from three groups:
1) Those already employed taking a part time job,
2) People not in the workforce picking up a little temporary income (like retirees or students who would otherwise not be in the workforce), and
3) the unemployed taking a part time job.

People taking a second job will show up in the number of people working multiple jobs ("Multiple Jobholders Level" in the CPS, something to watch). For retirees and students, they will probably leave the workforce once the temporary job is over.

But only the unemployed taking a part time job will lower the unemployment rate, and I think that will be a small part of the temporary Census 2020 hiring.