There Are More Open Jobs In Colorado Than Unemployed People. That’s A Problem For The US Census Count

Natalia V. Navarro/CPR News
Recruiting assistant Jimmy Walker (second from the left) talks through jobs with the 2020 Census with Wendy McCune (right) on Oct. 22, 2019 at the Colorado Nonprofit Association Conference in downtown Denver. The census is looking to hire thousands of workers in Colorado.

The U.S. Census is looking to hire thousands of Coloradans for short-term positions, as companies across the state struggle to find enough workers.

The number of open jobs in the state is currently larger than the number of unemployed people, according to the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment.

The Regional Transportation District proposed significant cuts to bus and train service last week because of a driver shortage.

This week was the Census Bureau's peak recruiting time. The Bureau is recruiting workers now for jobs that will start with paid training in March. Their nationwide goal is 500,000 workers, but Colorado presents a unique challenge, according to Census spokesperson Laurie Cipriano.

"We are hopeful that we'll be able to find enough workers but it will be difficult because unemployment is so low," she said.

The unemployment rate is down to about 2.7 percent in the state, only a tenth of a percent away from the all-time low of 2.6 percent.

"It's a very tight labor market here in Colorado," said Ryan Gedney, senior economist at the state Department of Labor. "Every industry is having a lot of difficulty so I certainly think the Census, not only in Colorado, but in every state, is going to have difficulty filling all the positions that are required for the 2020 Census."

Cipriano said Census officials are trying to attract applicants through recruiting events across the state this month. Some have people with laptops to guide people through the application.

"Some of the events are having dozens of people come to them, some are having hundreds, but the point of these events is to make everything accessible to everyone," she said.

The Bureau is also collaborating with Univision on a phone bank to answer questions and walk applicants through the process in either Spanish or English.

Cipriano said the jobs have competitive pay, paid training and flexible hours, which she hopes will attract people who already have jobs that are looking for supplemental income.

King Arhinful already has a job as a nursing assistant, but the Census could pay more. He said he plans to apply.

"I mean why not? Apart from earning money, I'll be learning more about the Census itself," he said.

The pay ranges from approximately $14 to $20 an hour, depending on the county.

"We've seen an uptick in those gig jobs and supplemental jobs especially since ride-sharing has been very prevalent over the last five years," Gedney said.

There are also around 70,000 workers in the state who work part-time but would prefer to work more hours, he said. Those people may be the right target audience for Census recruiting.

"This is a difficult situation for employers, but for employees, this is kind of a great time," Gedney said. "We're seeing people shift to jobs they prefer and we're also seeing increases in their wages.