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Census Bureau is still searching for workers who speak foreign languages

NEW YORK — If you don’t mind going door to door and asking strangers some personal questions, you may have a future as a Census worker.

Despite a massive hiring push, the U.S. Census Bureau still hasn’t reached recruiting goals in certain pockets of the country. The agency is particularly short on workers who can speak Spanish and other languages spoken in immigrant communities.

The hope is to get another 63,500 recruits in place for canvassing work that begins in May, to reach the total recruitment goal of 635,000.

The work can last up to eight weeks, and entails knocking on the doors of those who don’t mail back their 2010 census forms. The idea is to spend 10 minutes at each house and collect answers to 10 questions.

Pay varies depending on the region; it can be as high as $22 an hour in California, or as low as $10 in Tennessee. Workers get four days of paid training, and paychecks are issued on a weekly basis.

The hours are flexible, although workers are generally asked to visit homes during evenings and weekends when people are more likely to be home. You would get reimbursed if you have to drive or take public transit as part of the work.

If it sounds like good temporary or part-time work, call your local census office and ask if it’s still seeking applicants. The phone number for your local office can be found on the Census Bureau Web site at www.census.gov.

If it’s still recruiting, you’ll be scheduled to go in for about an hour-and-a-half to fill out paperwork and take a 30-minute test.

The questions test clerical skills, such as alphabetizing names, arranging dates chronologically and grouping records by sex or Social Security number. A sample test is on Census.gov.

Recruits will be notified whether they’ve been hired starting next week, but applicants may find out as late as the end of April. Training starts April 27.

Just how many workers will be needed depends on how many Americans mail back their census forms.

The Census Bureau is hoping it won’t have to hire everyone it recruited. That’s because the cost of each mailed response is 42 cents, versus $57 per household for an in-person response. If everyone mailed in their response, it would save taxpayers $1.5 billion, according to Shelley Lowe, a census spokeswoman.

In 2000, about 72 percent of Americans mailed back their forms.

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