The labor crunch is driving wages for census workers higher statewide, but particularly in the Oil Patch.
Hourly pay rates have been raised from $17 to $21 per hour in most western counties of North Dakota, and from $15.50 to $18 per hour for most eastern counties in the state.
Williams is among counties that now has a pay rate of $21 per hour for census takers. It had been around $17 for the same position.
McKenzie County is also now $21 per hour. The pay rate for neighboring Richland County, Montana, meanwhile was raised to $17 per hour. It had been around $13.
Fifteen North Dakota counties were listed as having difficulty in meeting hiring goals as of October. These included Divide, Dunn, Mountrail, McClean, Benson, Burke, Billings, Bowman, Cavalier, Griggs, Kidder, Logan, Rolette, Sioux and Steele counties.
If the U.S. Census Bureau cannot hire enough employees in state, it will bring them from out of state, which will cost more. The Census in fact did bring in 10 employees to complete address canvassing from August to October. It needed 90 employees in all to complete that.
The remaining census jobs are primarily census takers, for non-response follow up. That’s going to require an estimated 1,200 employees for 2020, according to the North Dakota Census Bureau.
For followup work, census takers visit residences that have failed to self-respond to the 2020 Census forms, to try and get a resident of the household to fill out the forms.
Census workers will make three attempts to visit the home, after which the workers may ask a neighbor for help in counting residents of that household.
The rates of non-response to the Census has been growing over the decades, which is increasing the costs of conducting the nationwide count. In 1980, the Census cost just $4.76 per person. That has risen steadily each decade, and was $42.11 in 2010, not adjusted for inflation.
The Census Bureau has lately been trying new approaches to keep costs down. It’s estimating the 2020 Census will cost $41 per person, based on efforts to partner with states and local communities to better identify and target difficult to count population groups.