Census Bureau finds home in Williston1/29/09

Office will bring 800 jobs to state

Jan. 29, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

It might be tough to count on a job these days in an uncertain economy, but the U.S. Census Bureau is counting on hiring more than 800 Vermonters for key positions.

John Hameline, the local census office manager in Williston, said the bureau is currently collecting a pool of applicants for jobs that will be available well into 2010. He said people interested in part-time work and being part of a statewide team are welcome to apply.

“We’re pretty good at (census operations) now. We’ve been doing it since 1790,” Hameline said, referring to the census bureau.

The U.S. Constitution requires that a census take place in the country every 10 years. Hameline said the data, which includes the number of individuals in a household and median family incomes, is used in a wide variety of ways. Census numbers help in creating and updating districts for the U.S. House of Representatives, as well as determining revenue sharing data for federal dollars.

The census bureau’s Vermont headquarters is located in Williston on Industrial Avenue in part of the former Rossignol building. The census last had its office in Blair Park in 2000.

Hameline said people interested in a job can take a basic aptitude test at several locations across the state, including at the headquarters in Williston. He said the bureau has already tested 1,000 people and will continue testing through 2010 as different jobs become available. The test focuses on basic math and computer skills.

Hameline said it’s a massive undertaking in any state to do the census, which is why the bureau hopes to fill the temporary and part-time positions throughout the next year and a half. The census office in Williston will close down in October 2010 when operations wrap up.

The majority of the jobs will be located in towns across the state, Hameline said. There are currently 30 staffers in Williston, and he guessed another 50 positions would be added at the Industrial Avenue location throughout the process.

Jobs start at $13.50 per hour and offer flexible schedules, Hameline said.

Positions throughout the state include office clerks, recruiting assistants, field workers and address listers, who verify peoples’ addresses before the census mailers are sent out. Hameline said the address lister position is important because the more confirmed addresses there are, there is generally a better rate of return for census forms.

Overall, the rate of return is 60 percent nationwide, and just a little higher in Vermont, Hameline said. That’s why it’ll be important to hire people in 2010 to visit homes that have not mailed

back a census.

“We’re all geared to getting the most accurate and best count we can,” Hameline said. “Our obligation is to count everyone where they are.”

Hameline said the U.S. Census Bureau must report its numbers to President Barack Obama by Dec. 31, 2010. After that, Americans will be able to see the final tally. Hameline said he expects to see some growth in Vermont’s population — potentially around 5 percent — when the process is over.

Anyone interested in applying for a census job should call 866-861-2010 or visit www.2010censusjobs.gov. The Williston office is located at 426 Industrial Ave., Suite 150. Appointments must be made in advance for the test.