Census Jobs May Have Trimmed Private Payrolls, Feroli Says

The surge in hiring of workers in May to conduct the U.S. census may have cut private payrolls by about 150,000 workers, leading to the “disappointing” figures for last month, according to Michael Feroli at JPMorgan Chase & Co. in New York.

The federal government took on 411,000 people on a temporary basis last month to help with the decennial population count, according to figures from the Labor Department issued last week. Companies added 41,000 staff, short of the 180,000 median forecast of 35 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News.

In the six population counts taken by mail since 1960, last month was the only time private payrolls rose the same month that census hiring peaked, according to a study by Feroli, JPMorgan’s chief U.S. economist. Census employment may make it more difficult for companies to find part-time help, he said.

The “data point to a statistically meaningful role for the Census in the disappointing private sector employment number for May,” Feroli said in a note to clients today. “Depending on how the weekly Census hiring data look over the next couple of weeks, the unwind of this effect could add back around 150,000 jobs to next month’s private employment data.”

Of the 15 million unemployed Americans, about 2 million only want part-time work, meaning last month’s surge in government hiring probably made a sizable dent in the number of people available to companies looking for those willing to work less than a full day, Feroli said.

In addition, because the payroll figures represent the difference between the about 4 million people hired every month and the slightly less than 4 million who are fired or quit, any delay in finding a replacement may have a large influence, Feroli said.

“If removing a significant number of part-time jobseekers from the applicant pool means it takes as little as an extra day to fill a vacancy, that could have a large effect on the monthly employment number,” Feroli said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Carlos Torres in Washington at Ctorrres2@bloomberg.net

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