Advertisement
  1. Breaking News

Census provides crucial infusion of jobs, even in good economic times

Janice Turner, 67, speaks to a group of people about the application process to work for the U.S. Census on Tuesday at the Chloe E. Coney Urban Enterprise Center in Tampa. Turner currently works for the U.S. Census in Hillsborough County. [ALLIE GOULDING | Times]
Janice Turner, 67, speaks to a group of people about the application process to work for the U.S. Census on Tuesday at the Chloe E. Coney Urban Enterprise Center in Tampa. Turner currently works for the U.S. Census in Hillsborough County. [ALLIE GOULDING | Times]
Published Jul. 17

TAMPA — Ten years ago, Lisa Montelione needed work.

It was 2009, and like millions of Americans her life had been upended by the Great Recession. Months earlier, she had been laid off from her job in construction and her future was uncertain.

Then, in the fall, she received a stroke of good fortune: She got a temporary job working for the U.S. Census Bureau in Hillsborough County.

"It gave me some stability. It was a really great thing," she said.

Now, as the government gears up for the staggering logistical task of counting every U.S. resident in the coming year, the Census Bureau is hiring once again. The agency will open a field office in Hillsborough County and is expected to employ hundreds of people around Tampa Bay alone.

This time, the Census Bureau is recruiting temporary employees in a markedly different economy than in 2010. Unemployment has fallen steadily nationwide, and in Tampa Bay it has shrunk from 11.3 percent ten years ago to 3.1 percent today.

But for many in the bay area, the job opportunities provided by the census — the official U.S. head count that the Constitution requires every 10 years — are still welcome.

They include retirees, who are not counted in unemployment statistics and are drawn to the temporary part-time work for the Census Bureau, as well as people from parts of the bay area that have not seen the full effects of the economic resurgence. According to data released by the Census Bureau's American Community Survey in 2017, Tampa's Orient Park neighborhood and east Tampa both had 10.5 percent unemployment, compared to 4.9 percent unemployment across the bay area that year. (While the Department of Labor releases unemployment numbers monthly, the most recent community-specific data from the American Community Survey is from 2017).

More than 200 people showed up to apply Tuesday at the Coney Urban Enterprise Center in east Tampa, where the Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa and workers from the Census Bureau held a job fair. Many were retirees, while others said they were between jobs and seeking whatever employment they could find.

"I didn't know much about the census, so this is all pretty new to me," said Tampa resident James Long, 26, whose last job was working as a quality technician for Zephyrhills Water. "I just saw that this was happening and it seemed like a good position."

Census jobs are attractive in part because they don't require technical skills and offer pay well above minimum wage. Depending on the position and location, the wages for census jobs can range from $13.50 to $24.00 an hour, and for enumerators — the most common role that involves knocking on doors and counting residents—it's $18.50 an hour, census worker Janice Turner said.

Turner outlined for applicants the ways next year's census will be unlike any before. Census workers will be issued smartphones as part of the government's ambitious plan to digitize the count, and for the first time, residents will have the opportunity to complete the surveys online, requiring fewer door-knocks. That's a change that was welcomed by those who worked for the Census Bureau in 2010.

"I was walking door to door in the heat, so this time I'd rather get to spend time sitting at a desk," Tampa resident Marsha Green, who worked for the last census, said to Turner after her presentation.

Census jobs represent an ideal job opportunity for populations served by the Corporation to Develop Communities of Tampa, according to Montelione, a former Tampa City Council member who now works for the nonprofit. Montelione used her experience as a former census worker to answer applicants' questions at the job fair.

"What we find is that the people who come here have some sort of a challenge, which could be transportation, or something in their background, or the fact that they're retired, and we help them find employment," Montelione said. "Even though the census is temporary, it can fuel people as they're looking for more long-term work."

Those interested in working for the census can submit an online application on the 2020 census website.

Contact Aaron Holmes at aholmes@tampabay.com or (706) 347-1880. Follow @aaronpholmes.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Leonard Henry, inset, faces charges of burglary, battery of a law enforcement officer, criminal mischief and possession of a controlled substance. [TONY MARRERO | Times; Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
    The officer was hospitalized. The suspect was apprehended and taken to the Hillsborough County Jail.
  2. St. Lucie Mets outfielder Tim Tebow warms up before the beginning of the Mets at Threshers game at Spectrum Field Aug. 17, 2017. Clearwater is seeking a $79.7 million renovation of Spectrum Field and the Carpenter training complex used by the Philadelphia Phillies and Clearwater Threshers. [DOUGLAS CLIFFORD  |  Times]
    The city faces a number of landmines.
  3. AP file photo of then Gov. and now U.S. Sen. Rick Scott
    DeSantis, Rick Scott and other Republicans have taken a strong stance on Saudi Arabia in recent days. President Donald Trump?
  4. An undated photo of an inmate pod at the Falkenburg Road Jail in Hillsborough County. [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office] [Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office]
    Marcus Anderson, 33, collapsed Dec. 1 at the Falkenburg Road Jail. He died six days later.
  5. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. [Tampa Bay Times]
    The intersection near the accident is a difficult one to safely navigate.
  6. A Brinks security guard and a Good Samaritan who came to his aid were shot during a robbery attempt at GTE Financial credit union in Brandon on Friday. [Tony Marrero, Times Staff]
    The search continued into the evening Saturday for the shooter, who is believed to be a serial bank robber.
  7. Mohammed "Mo" Haitham, 19, was a track star at Lakewood High School. He was one of the victims of the Naval Air Station Pensacola shooting on Friday, according to his mother and Lakewood High principal Erin Savage. [CARRY PRATT  |  Photo by Carrie Pratt]
    Mohammed Haitham just finished boot camp and had been reassigned to Pensacola.
  8. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. [Tampa Bay Times]
    The motorcycle was headed south on Dale Mabry, while the northbound bus was making a turn.
  9. Congressional aides maneuver a Christmas tree to the office of Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, on Capitol Hill earlier this month. No word on whether they washed it first, but experts say hosing down a live tree can be a good way to keep allergens from causing respiratory problems during the holiday season. [J. SCOTT APPLEWHITE  |  AP]
    Hosing off a live tree or wiping off an artificial one are two ways to keep allergens at bay during the holidays.
  10. These undated photo made available by the Florida Department of Corrections, show Ronnie Hill, left, and Lamar Alexander, two robbery suspects who were killed in a shootout with police, Thursday, Dec. 4, 2019, after they stole a UPS driver’s truck and led police on a chase that ended in gunfire at a busy South Florida intersection. UPS driver Frank Ordonez and another motorist who was waiting at a busy intersection were also killed. 
( Florida Department of Corrections via AP) [AP]
    Both men had long criminal histories and had recently been released from prison.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement