Census hiring helped increase the August jobs tally.

Census hiring helped increase the August jobs tally.

The August jobs number comes with a quarter-million-job asterisk.

The headline payroll figure of 1.4 million new jobs includes nearly 240,000 workers hired temporarily to carry out the 2020 census. Most of them will be laid off when census canvassing ends later this month — meaning next month’s figure will also carry an asterisk, just in the other direction.

Private-sector payrolls, which aren’t affected by census hiring, rose by one million, down from 1.5 million in July.

Unlike many of the other data quirks during the pandemic, the census issue is a familiar one to economists. In 2010, census hiring added 410,000 jobs to the May payroll figure, then shaved off roughly the same number over the next two months. This year, census hiring came later than usual, because of delays caused by the pandemic, and the total number of jobs is smaller, in part because of an increased emphasis on getting Americans to respond to the census online and by phone.

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