Census jobs count

CENSUS JOBS COUNT…. With the economy adding 162,000 jobs in March, the best month in three years, Republicans are left to come up with a new reason Americans shouldn’t believe their lying eyes. The new argument is that the job totals don’t really count, because so many of the new jobs are part of census-related hiring.

With Republican electoral prospects relying on a poor economy, the Republican National Committee sought to paint increased jobs numbers as “unacceptable” and “mostly from the census.”

A couple of things to remember here. First, the RNC’s claim is wildly misleading. Based on the data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Census Bureau hired 48,000 workers in March. Is that “most” of 162,000? Of course not.

Second, it’s not uncommon to hear Republicans suggest census jobs aren’t real jobs, in part because they’re temporary. But this is a short-sighted way to look at this. Matt Yglesias had a good item on this earlier.

That’s obviously not going to be an enduring source of labor market strength. But it does work nicely as a convenient stimulus measure. If people get Census jobs, they’ll have a bit more money to spend. And if they spend a bit more money, that creates employment opportunities for others. In essence, the Census hiring is operating like a classic countercyclical public works initiative.

Exactly. Obviously, these aren’t the kind of career opportunities that last, but it’s not that much different from using stimulus money on an infrastructure project — the government pays workers to complete an important task, and those workers are then able to spend on other good and services, which in turn helps the larger economy.

In other words, census jobs count, too.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.