I’m continuing with our ongoing series of insider e-mails from Census workers. (Part One is here, Part Two is here). It’s worth keeping these accounts in mind as you read news of the unemployment figures today:
Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 162,000 in March, and the unemployment rate held at 9.7 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Temporary help services and health care continued to add jobs over the month. Employment in federal government also rose, reflecting the hiring of temporary workers for Census 2010.
A common theme from the Census workers who’ve written in is the directive from their managers to slow down, stall, waste time, and stretch out their work unnecessarily.
Makes sense from a book-cooking standpoint, doesn’t it? More on the job inflation effect of the temporary Census worker hires here.
And now, more true confessions…
From reader X.:
I’ve noticed the last couple of days census workers have been confessing the inner details and I too am compelled to share my story. First, I ask for anonymity because I have been without work and am in need of a job, but I have been working with the census for 2 weeks and everyday I shake my head at the blatant inefficiency, and deliberate misuse of taxpayer money. Specifically, we have been doing enumeration for those who do not have a home, the homeless in shelters, soup kitchens and in targeted nonsheltered outdoor locations, such as parks, subway stations, etc. I personally have been sent to check on shelters that were already determined to be day programs only during the preceding round of quality control, yet they pay me the mileage and hourly wage to go back and make sure that they are still only day programs. I walked through parks and parking lots looking for homeless people to enumerate, not even by talking to them, but just by observing their race, sex, and approximate age.
I have indirectly been told to not work too fast, that each operation is budgeted to last until a certain date and that there is no reason to move faster and end before the scheduled time. The inefficiency of the materials and the redundancies in the process of taking a form, giving it to a respondent and having them seal it in an envelope, then give the envelope to me where I open it and verify the census form is complete, then reseal the form in a new envelope and give it to my crew leader. Then my crew leader opens this envelope, checks that I have marked the form complete, and then reseals it in yet another envelope. Where it then goes to the local census office, and is once again opened, and inputted into the computer system. And those three envelopes? They end up in the shredder along with the form. Just a complete waste of resources.
I would not say that this is the fault of any of the people I work with directly; I have met chefs, med students, retired professors and teachers, accountants, college students- these people are all hardworking and excited to be doing what they believe to be civil service to country. I myself am a secondary education major at West Chester University with a specialization in History and Civics, and I applied to the census because I was thrilled to be able to gain the experience of civil service. I still am trying to believe that what I’m doing is in some way important, but I’m doubting that now. The way the process has been setup by government bureaucracy is so backwards and prevents a person who is industrious and efficient from being able to work freely. Its like it is deliberately setup and complicated in process so that it forces you to work slower and equalize the amount of work that each employee produces everyday. I’m used to the situation being the harder and faster you work, the better you show yourself as a worker. This is the first job where I am encouraged to be slow and inefficient.
Thank you Michelle for reading this and for opening this subject up. It is important that the taxpayers in this country know where their money is going!
From reader M.G.:
I’ve been keeping up with your census “series” and thought I’d drop a line to tell you that it was much the same in Iowa. My wife and two close friends were between jobs at the time and all got hired as enumerators. They got paid mileage and had a full weeks training. Some people had their hotels paid for. Training was horrifically dumbed down so that all of the unqualified hires could keep up. Their job was supposed to last for 8 weeks and after the first week all of them were told they had to slow down. They did and ended up wasting lots of time, but even so, their 8 week job only lasted 4 weeks.
It was really amazing to hear the stories of inefficiency, waste and horrible planning/management. The team leaders were not “leaders” and wouldn’t have been given management positions if they were in the private sector. The whole thing was one scary joke…
From reader K.:
I too was a Census worker….but I choose not to go back…….
I had the great pleasure of working for the address canvassing last spring. I was hired in early April for a job that was to be completed by the first week of July. I have a military background and a background in Human Resources, the whole process left me with blood squirting from my eyes.
Training was one very long week. The training consisted of the crew leaders (who were trained a week earlier) standing up and read to us from the training manual…verbatim. 90% of the training was a total waste of time….
I worked in the field for 4 days so that I would know what to do. The remainder of my time was spent setting in a McDonalds to have a daily progress meeting with each of the enumerators. I was paid from the time I left my house to the time I got home…plus mileage. I was told to pad the time or mileage to cover my McDonalds food, since I was camping in a booth all day. For all that I was paid $11.75 an hour.
Our blocks to be canvassed was taken from old maps and digitized for GPS marking. For most of the time the address was there. I just had to make minor corrections or add new homes. We were told that as “Federal Employees” we had the right to walk around the property and inspect for other entrances that could be considered a separate living area. Do you think I was willing to tromp some rural homestead, flying Confederate flag?
The handheld computers stunk. Half the time they didn’t work. I had crew members get paid just to be on a phone all day talking to the tech people. The Census would not ship out a new one. .. rather a worker would have to drive to Pittsburgh to have the unit looked at. (I live 80 miles from Pittsburgh…so that was $80 for mileage plus an easy 8 hour paid day.) Fed-ex would have been $30.
We had a really good crew, and were done by the second week of May (rather than the first week of July!) Philadelphia was going nuts because our region was getting done so fast, but there was nothing we could do to slow it down another 2 months. So then we got the word to hurry up and wrap it up.
Our local crew wanted to know why were done so fast. I told them that government workers wrote the regs. If they had been doing the job it would have taken 3 months. We were just regular Joes who had a “get it done” work ethic.
I never saw such a mismanaged outfit in all my life. I just shook my head in total disbelief. Our work could have been done with half the people. We did have those that quit right after training, to the tune of $800 spent on nothing. I earned approximately $3000. I will say to be quite honest it was the easiest money I ever made.
On the exit interview, I was asked if I wanted to be called back for further work. I wrote “NO” in big letters. I didn’t want to take any further part in what I saw to be a racket. I was not contacted any further….until last week. I told them I was not interested in working for the Obama Administration.