The most important gig economy employer of 2020 won't be Uber or DoorDash - it'll be the US government

census 2010

Spencer Platt/Getty

Census workers inform ethnic Russians of the upcoming census count in the Russian enclave of Brighton Beach on March 7, 2010, in the Brooklyn borough of New York.

  • The Census Bureau is planning to hire as many as 500,000 part-time workers to go out into America's communities and see exactly how many people live there.
  • That would briefly make the Bureau one of the largest employers in the country.
  • Historically, the Census Bureau's temporary hires appear as dramatic spikes in the number of people employed by the federal government every 10 years.
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For a few months later this year, the Census Bureau is going to be one of the largest employers in the US gig economy.

The Bureau announced that it is planning to hire as many as 500,000 part-time and temporary census-takers to go out into America's communities and see exactly how many people live there this spring and summer as part of the constitutionally mandated decennial count of the US population.

A recent Bureau news release noted that the Census enumerators are an important part of the process, counting "households who have not responded online, by phone or by mail."

The nearly half-million planned hires would briefly make the Census Bureau one of the largest employers in the country. Only two Fortune 500 companies - Walmart with its 2.2 million employees and Amazon with about 650,000 - had employee counts over 500,000 as of the publication of the most recent list.

The hiring impact of the Census Bureau's decennial count can be seen in the Bureau of Labor Statistics' employment figures. This chart shows the total number of government employees every month going back to 1975. The four dramatic large spikes in the spring of 1980, 1990, 2000, and 2010 are largely due to the temporary and part-time workers employed by the Census to go out and count everyone in the country. Assuming that the Census Bureau's hiring plans come to fruition, there should be a similar spike later this year:

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