Politics

Census official scolds New York Post columnist in tabloid’s online comments section

Mike Riggs Contributor

Census officials waded into the online comments section of the New York Post on Wednesday to refute claims that the Census Bureau has been gaming its employment figures.

NY Post columnist John Crudele wrote about Census workers who felt the program was being mismanaged and job numbers inflated:

One of the millions of workers hired by Census 2010 to parade around the country counting Americans blew the whistle on some statistical tricks. The worker, Naomi Cohn, told the Post that she was hired and fired a number of times by Census. Each time she was hired back, it seems, Census was able to report the creation of a new job to the Labor Department.

Cohn wasn’t Crudele’s sole source. He included anecdotes from several other anonymous Census workers, all of whom suggested that the bureau was misreporting the number of people it had hired to do collect surveys.

“For the past two months the hiring by Census has made up a good portion of the new jobs,” reported by the Labor bureau, according to Crudele. “Labor doesn’t check the Census hiring figure or whether the jobs are actually new or recycled. It considers a new job to have been created if someone is hired to work at least one hour a month.”

Census officials say Crudele “distorted” the bureau’s employee reporting process. And when they couldn’t reach the columnist for a correction, they instead took to the Post’s notoriously nasty comment section to make their case, a Census official told The Daily Caller.

“This article distorts the Census Bureau’s employment and reporting practices; it’s important to set the record straight,” Sherry Lowe wrote in the comment section.

Lowe’s entire response reads:

First, the Census Bureau does not hire, then fire, and then rehire anyone. Any employee who is fired is fired for cause. We train and hire temporary workers for various operations, most significantly Non-Response Follow-Up (NRFU) to complete work assignments. When the work is complete, the temporary worker goes into an inactive status. They may be re-activated if there is more work to do, or for another subsequent operation. At no time do we count a re-activation from non-working status as a “rehire.”

The article goes on to state: “Labor doesn’t check the Census hiring figure or whether the jobs are actually new or recycled. It considers a new job to have been created if someone is hired to work at least one hour a month.

This is simply inaccurate. The Census Bureau reports to the Department of Labor and on our public website the number of people paid for work during a given week. We do not report the number of jobs. The Census Bureau reports the total number of unduplicated temporary 2010 workers that earned any pay during a specific weekly pay period. Temporary workers earning any pay during the week are counted only once. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) measures changes in employment levels — not the actual level itself — and looks only at the week which includes the 12th day of the month. It is simply not possible for Census to engage in the manipulation of data to artificially inflate the employment report of the BLS in the manner alleged by this news column.

Crudele said in his column: “I’ve been unable to get Census to explain this to me.” His sources apparently couldn’t get it explained either, though it now seems several may have been describing the bureau’s “re-activation” practice: “I have been hired, trained for a week, given a few hours of work, then laid off,” one source told Crudele. “So my unemployed self now counts for four new jobs.”

While Lowe’s response certainly seems to speak to the complaints Crudele describes, there’s been no shortage of mishaps involving the bureau’s door-to-door operations.