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Census office counts on local employees

Article Published: Nov. 25, 2009 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011

Census takers may not be ready to begin counting heads, but the U.S. Census is already helping people count on paychecks.

Ceylon Barclay, manager of the Local Census Office in Boone, said the office was actively hiring office workers and administrators to help with recruiting, and a variety of desk and field jobs will be available over the coming months. Though the jobs are temporary, they will provide a welcome boost to the economy.

"Right now, the big push is on recruiting," Barclay said. "Because of the temporary nature of the job, we have to look at a lot of people to hire the 1,000 or so people we'll need. We just hired five more recruiting assistants in the various counties."

The local office oversees the census count in an eight-county area, and Barclay encouraged people to apply, even if they want jobs that don't begin until next year. He said a variety of skill levels are needed, and there's the opportunity for promotion.

"Some are starting now," Barclay said. "We'll probably be up to our full complement by the middle of January. We're trying to hire competent people now for clerk's jobs and we're interviewing every day."

To begin the application process, people should call (828) 832-5920 to reach a local recruiting desk. There are about 15 people already employed to answer calls, and a written test of basic skills can be scheduled.

"There is a sample test on the Internet to get a feel for what is coming in the test," Barclay said. "We'll need crew leaders, assistant crew leaders and other jobs based on training and skills, and we have work for people with most backgrounds."

Barclay presented a resolution supporting the census to the Boone Town Council Thursday, and he spoke of the benefits of the population count both as a jobs boost and a determinator for federal funding. More than $300 billion is allocated based on census data each year.

He said the large number of second-home owners in the region would make it a challenge to get an accurate count.

"We also have the challenge of 5,000 students that live on (the Appalachian State University) campus and around 10,000 that live off campus," Barclay said. "That represents about a third of the county and we want to make sure we get them all counted."

The field positions will range from about $8.50 to $13 an hour, depending on the skills and job duties, along with a reimbursement of 55 cents a mile. Many of those jobs will be filled in February and March so workers can be trained by spring to help people fill out forms, Barclay said.

"The first step is to call in and get yourself scheduled for a test," Barclay said, with testing locations varying by time and site. "We'll basically schedule it so people can take the test, no matter what their working hours are."

Barclay said the census is important because it determines how federal funding is apportioned. The office will also encourage people to fill out their census forms and return them by mail, which is the cheapest and most efficient way to get accurate counts.

"All we can do now is look at the history from 10 years ago on the return rate," Barclay said.
"About a third of all people don't send in their forms. Knocking on doors is very expensive. Every percentage point we can bring that up saves the federal government about $90 million."

The U.S. Census is expected to hire about 1.4 million people nationally. "It's going to sprinkle a lot of money around these eight counties up here, so that will be helpful," Barclay said.

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