employment rates remain high across the North Country and the nation as a whole, but a valuable government program may provide some temporary opportunities for those in need of a job.
The 2010 United States Census is currently undertaking a nationwide recruiting effort for people to help with collecting population statistics.
Mary Miller is assistant manager for recruiting at the local census office in Glens Falls, which is in charge of census-taking efforts in Clinton, Essex, Hamilton, Warren, Washington, and Fulton counties.
"We are offering $13 an hour plus mileage," said Miller, "and in these hard economic times, that is good money."
And that's just where it starts, said George Demas, local census office manager in Glens Falls. There are positions available along a series of higher levels, each offering a higher rate of pay.
Altogether, said Demas, the 2010 census will need to hire about 1,200 census-takers, also called enumerators, to seek out homes needed for the agency's population count.
"In order to work for the census, you have to take a test," said Demas.
The test will be administered at the Ticonderoga Community Building Jan. 25, Feb. 8 and Feb. 22 at 10 a.m.; at the Mineville VFW Jan. 22 at 6 p.m.; at the Crown Point town hall Feb. 8 at 10 a.m.; and at St. Patrick's Church in Port Henry Feb. 8 at 10 a.m.
The field test, which consists of 28 multiple choice questions dealing with basic language and math skills, will qualify prospective workers for the vast majority of available positions.
A separate supervisors' test is also available to qualify for some of the managerial positions. However, Demas encouraged all supervisor applicants to take the field test as well, since the Census office often looks to hire managers from in-house.
There is no need to pre-register for any of the tests, said Demas, and there's no need for applicants to worry if they don't perform well.
"They can take the test again," said Demas. "They can take it as many times as they want and the highest score counts."
Applicants who take either of the tests are added to a database that acts as a hiring pool for local census offices. Demas said hiring people from within the communities they canvas is a high priority.
"We need local people to do that," said Demas. "They're more effective at that than the people who are not from that area because they know the streets and they know the neighborhood."
Another important skill is foreign language, he said, since some of the homes census-takers visit may not be English-speaking.
"Bilingual applicants are highly sought after," he said. 'We would go out of our way to hire a bilingual enumerator for that area."
Most census workers put in between 20 and 40 hours a week with very flexible schedules, said Demas, many choosing to work evenings and weekends when the houses they visit are more likely to be occupied.
"They don't go to every house," said Demas. "They go to the houses that didn't respond to the mail campaign."
Questionnaires are sent in March to all known homes and apartments across the country, explained Demas, and the majority are expected to respond by mail.
"This year we have the shortest questionnaire in the history of the census," said Demas, noting how the form has been shortened from years past to focus on just the most necessary information.
"One of our main projects is to convince people of the value of being counted," Demas said.
Census information is primarily used in determining the population of an area for the purpose of determining representation in Congress and state legislatures. However, many institutions, both public and private, rely on the population data to determine the need for services in a given area.
"Not only is it good for them to be a part of this information, Demas said, "but it benefits the community as well."
Though the aggregate information is widely distributed, Demas stressed that the Census does not allow specific information about individuals to be shared, even with other governmental agencies.
"We will not give your personal information to the IRS, immigration, or the FBI," Demas said. "We have the most secure database with the most accurate population data."
Still, for whatever reason, not every home responds to the questionnaire by mail. That's why workers are needed to locate the homes and determine the status of residents.
A list of local testing sites are available on the U.S. Census Web site, www.census2010.gov. Applicants can also call a toll-free number, 1-866-861-2010, to find out about upcoming tests in their area.