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BILL RADKE: Now, here's a bit of bright news to counter those grim unemployment numbers I mentioned. The U.S. Census Bureau is looking to hire a million people. And they have available one of the largest and most qualified pools of candidates ever, since there are more than 3.6 million Americans currently out of work.
From Los Angeles, Alex Cohen reports.
ALEX COHEN: Sandy McDaniel of Glendale, Calif., creates public art projects -- like giant sculptures that mask cell phone towers. But lately, she says, calls from clients have been slowing down…
SANDY MCDANIEL: If it's not life and death, people want to put things on hold until they see what's going to happen.
So, a few weeks ago, McDaniel decided to apply for a job with the U.S. Census Bureau.
MCDANIEL: Because it is part-time and you can do it at night and weekends I thought, you know, I can see this as like almost a performance art piece where it's an experience interacting with the community.
The salary varies from region to region. Here in L.A., it's a bit less than what 54-year-old McDaniel is used to earning.
MCDANIEL: The pay is $17 or $18 an hour which you're not going to retire to Maui on something like that, but it's not bad considering what a lot of, you know, hourly jobs pay.
In the past, finding people to fill census jobs wasn't easy, but thanks to the economic downturn, this year's been a different story.
JAMES CHRISTY: We are blown away with the response that we have gotten from the public.
James Christy heads up the census office in Los Angeles. He says he's been amazed at the quality of the candidates, like the one he recently met in the field.
CHRISTY: The skills that he had were just phenomenal, I mean his handwriting was great everything was good about him and I started asking him about his background, he was a medical doctor.
Most of the jobs they're recruiting for are temporary, but he says, it's important work. After all, information gleaned from the 2010 Census will help determine where approximately $300 billion of federal funding goes.
CHRISTY: We will see a better census because we have people that are more skilled and a little more attuned as to what it is we are trying to do out there taking the census.
Like many other census offices throughout the country, the L.A. branch has been so inundated by excellent candidates they've had to stop taking applications.
But for those who missed out on this first round of hiring, don't despair. The census will begin their next round of recruiting for survey takers in the fall.
In Los Angeles, I'm Alex Cohen for Marketplace.