Job applications have poured into the U.S. Census Bureau since 2020 census officials in Minnesota warned of a hiring crunch late last year.

Bureau officials said Tuesday that the state has reached about 85% of its goal for applications, up from just over 30% in December amid a tight labor market. Hiring has already begun for the once-a-decade count, which starts next month when households across the state will receive letters instructing them to respond.

The bureau is expected to hire more than 7,000 workers in the state, largely to follow up with people who do not respond to mailers. Its goal is to receive more than 38,000 applications — 31,621 have come in so far.

“We’ve made some really good improvements since December, in part I think thanks to some media attention and the calendar turning over to 2020,” said Sam Fettig, the bureau’s Minnesota partnership coordinator. “I think it’s gotten on people’s radars that the census is coming and these are good jobs. They pay well.”

Some gaps remain. Hennepin County, where jobs are paying $27.50 an hour, has received about 115% of the desired applications. But Fettig said they still need assistance on college campuses, among other places.

The bureau, which is recruiting through mid-March, still needs about 8,300 applications, with the biggest gaps in St. Louis and Stearns counties — home to Duluth and St. Cloud — and the northwestern quadrant of Minnesota.

The bureau’s associate director of field operations, Tim Olson, said last week that the agency has received about 2.2 million of the 2.6 million applications it had hoped to get nationwide. He projected they would reach the goal by late February.

“If you had asked me [about meeting recruitment goals] two months ago, I would have been pulling my hair out and crying, very worried,” Olson said. “Unemployment’s at a 50-year low nationally. And we were struggling everywhere in the country to attract applicants to these temporary jobs. But the tide turned starting in early January.”

He added: “One of the keys to an accurate census is our ability to hire locally to follow up with non-responding households. If we can’t do that, we’re in trouble.”

To learn more about applying for census jobs, visit 2020Census.gov/jobs.