New census positions included in March jobs gains

By Laura Geller - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – The economy saw its largest one month jobs gain in the past three years. 162,000 new jobs were created in March. At the same time, the nation's unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.7%. Friday, the Secretary of the Interior announced the new gains at the Maggie Walker Historic Site in Richmond.

"The job figures that were released today are very good news for our country," said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. "Those figures represent so much more than numbers. They symbolize real hope for many Americans."

The site is one of a few in Virginia receiving stimulus dollars. Secretary Salazar credited that recovery act for the gains.

Economists had forecasted more than 200,000 jobs to be created in March. Salazar's message was there's more work to be done.

Thousands of those new jobs are census worker positions. In March, the Department of Commerce hired 48,000 people to help make sure every American is counted in the 2010 Census. That figure includes hundreds of workers in Central Virginia.

We asked Secretary Salazar if including those census workers in the jobs gains might give a false reading because the positions are temporary. The real answer, though, comes from the people who actually work these jobs. They told us going from desperation to a regular paycheck is definitely progress.

George Jamerson was at the end of his rope. In December of 2008, he was an independent business broker who wasn't making any money. He couldn't pay bills and worried how he could afford his children's education. The Jamersons even had to sell their home.

Rescue came from the department that works to make sure everyone is counted. The U.S. Census Bureau's Richmond office hired Jamerson as a clerk. His starting pay was $13.50 an hour.

"While that doesn't sound like much it was a Godsend to me," Jamerson said.

It has taken him a year and a half to move up through the ranks. Jamerson has gone from unemployment to running that office.

"It's given me that hope and that knowledge that yeah, I can go out there at 62 years old, I can still go out there and do a job for somebody," he said.

He's not the only one. In March alone, the Richmond office filled almost 300 new positions.  Jamerson is looking for 400 more workers. His is the only census office in Virginia still hiring.

He's looking for people like Anthony Bragg, who had drained most of his retirement fund before getting a phone call.

"She said 'Are you still interested in the census position?' I said, 'Am I interested?  When do I start?" he recalled.

More than 70% of these new census workers were unemployed when they were hired.

"When somebody gets a job here, you can see that they're happier," said Jamerson. "You can see that they feel better about themselves.  I know I did."

Call 916-5440 to set up a test to apply for one of the new positions at the Richmond office.  They need to hire more than 400 workers in the next two weeks.

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