Census Jobs' Ending Could Worsen Maryland Unemployment


WASHINGTON (Sept. 9, 2010)—The majority of the 12,000 temporary census jobs created in Maryland expired in July and August, a situation that could mean an uptick for Maryland's 7.1 percent unemployment rate.

The census stopped door-to-door canvassing on July 10, and 3,400 Maryland census workers lost their jobs at the end of July, according to the Maryland labor report. The majority of the remaining temporary positions ended Aug. 31, with the exception of some quality control positions, according to U.S. Census Bureau Maryland spokeswoman, Sylvia Ballinger.

"The bulk of the operation is over," Ballinger said. "Those guys were gone at the end of August."

Doris Carey, a Reisterstown resident, worked for the census from April until Aug. 6. She was an analyst for a private company before that. Now she's looking for work in the government. "I can only speak for my team, which was 19 people. I know almost all of us are looking for jobs now," Carey said.

Nationally, census job terminations pushed the unemployment rate up one-tenth of a percent to 9.6 percent last month. Maryland figures will not be released until Sept. 21, however in July, there were more than 210,000 unemployed in the state.

"It's going to take an acceleration of the private sector jobs being created in order to absorb those (census jobs) and make progress on our unemployment rate. It's going to be very difficult for that to happen," said Neil Bergsman, director of the Maryland Budget and Tax Policy Institute. "The private employers are not recovering quickly enough to make up for the loss of the public sector jobs."

Although the unemployment rate in Maryland is better than the national average, steadily declining from 7.5 percent in April to 7.1 percent in July, there hasn't been a lot of growth in any particular industry in Maryland to indicate where new jobs for these workers will exist.

In a statement released Tuesday, Gov. Martin O'Malley touted "Maryland's ability to sustain job growth," with the addition of 40,000 jobs since January—15,000 of those in government.

The employment numbers in other industries have been "up one month and down the next," said Shelia Watkins of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"I think the bottom line is it's still too early to tell. (Census workers) may be absorbed in any number of these industries in the month that they're hiring. But I can't point out any industry with sustained growth as of yet," Watkins said. "Things are a little bumpy, but I'm not seeing employment drop in any industry. It looks like the economy is trying to gain its footing."

Al Goyburu, economist from the Maryland Department of Business and Economic Development said that even with so many newly unemployed workers there won't be a large overall effect on unemployment.

"You could consider (the census) an unnatural occurrence to begin with," Goyburu said. "It created employment that wouldn't have occurred otherwise."

However, he said he does not believe Maryland unemployment will revert to pre-census rates. "We spent a lot more effort concentrating on the private side than we usually do," Goyburu said, "because we knew the census was going to muddy the waters. Our best guess is that the private job creation ought to be able to soak up a lot."

On the national level, private sector growth is falling just short of making up for the census job expirations. This week's report showed that 67,000 private sector jobs were added and 114,000 temporary census jobs were lost.

Capital News Service contributed to this report.

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