As the U.S. Census Bureau increases its national recruitment efforts for part-time census staff, Grand Forks County has achieved 39.5% of its recruitment goal, lagging slightly behind as the application deadline looms.

Kevin Iverson, the manager of the North Dakota Census Office, said that, if North Dakota doesn't receive enough applicants to fill available jobs, workers may be brought in from other states as was done during the 2010 census.

Iverson said it's much better to have local residents canvas their areas.

"They're familiar with the area, and they understand the cultural norms," Iverson said. "And even though they may not know that individual, they certainly know somebody in common and can use that as leverage quite often to establish a rapport with them. So I think it's absolutely paramount that we get people from the local area doing this kind of work."

That trust between individuals can have a significant impact on the count, Iverson said.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live
Newsletter signup for email alerts

"When you're dealing with the issues of distrust in government or people who are concerned with their privacy information, having somebody who can come in from outside the state who are more distant from where you live is just one more barrier that we don't need in getting a good count," he said.

He said 26% of North Dakota households did not respond to the 2010 census. He added that bringing out-of-state workers to North Dakota comes out of taxpayers' pockets.

A recent release from the U.S. Census Bureau named 18 states that are furthest behind their goal. Iverson said he was surprised North Dakota wasn't on that list.

The list of 18 states in most dire need of part-time workers included Minnesota. Polk County has achieved 33.6% of its recruiting goal with an offered rate of pay of $19 an hour.

Grand Forks County census workers are being offered $18. Iverson said that number was increased about a month ago from a $17 hourly rate in an effort to attract more applicants.

He said people took notice after the pay increase, but he said he thought there would be more interest in the jobs, particularly in Grand Forks County.

"I'm a little surprised Grand Forks County is showing in this color .... In many cases, they're looking for college students and retired persons," he said. "With a huge population of college students at UND, I really thought that a lot of individuals would bite on this."

He said his best guess is that they haven't been able to effectively get the word out about the jobs. He recalled telling three college students about the jobs at one community event recently.

"We started talking about the amount of money they could make, and their eyes just lit up," he said. "I mean, you can make $18 an hour with a job where you set your own hours."

The selection process for the jobs begins this month, and paid training is slated to occur in March and April. Most positions will work between May and early June. For more information about open positions, visit 2020census.gov/jobs. To learn more about the 2020 U.S. Census, visit 2020census.gov.