– In less than a month, Minnesotans will start being asked to fill out their census forms, far ahead of the late July date by which officials plan on counting every person in the state.

In northeastern Minnesota, meeting that deadline means hiring more census counters, a task recruiters are finding more challenging than last decade due to a tight labor market.

As of Monday morning, the U.S. Census Bureau has hired 72% of the employees it hopes to hire in St. Louis County and only 48% of those in Cook County. That’s behind the Twin Cities counties, which have mostly hit their hiring goals after a surge in applications last month.

“The work is going to get done,” said Kathy Wilson, census coordinator for the city of Duluth. “It’s just a matter of making sure an excessive amount of money isn’t spent on it. If we don’t get the full recruitment goal, it just might take a little bit longer to follow up with people who don’t respond.”

Counties in the region are now offering census takers $24 an hour, up from the $14-an-hour rate originally offered for the job. Sarah Priest, a Duluth-based partner specialist for the bureau, said there’s a chance that the rate could still increase to try to woo more potential applicants. The bureau is seeking the most workers for May through July to follow up with households that do not respond to invitations they receive by e-mail or through the Postal Service.

“For some counties up here, that’s prime summer tourism season,” Priest said. The positions are being advertised as a chance to earn some extra income in a role with flexible hours.

Joanne Davidson, 65, recently moved from Esko to Duluth. She applied to be a census taker because she thinks it could be a good way to meet the new neighbors.

“It’s just one of those things I’ve always done as part of being a citizen,” she said. “I’m hoping to learn more about exactly how it works.”

The bureau is aiming to get more than 38,000 applications for workers in Minnesota, where it expects to hire more than 7,000 people.

Local officials will continue heavy recruiting efforts in the coming weeks, up until at least early March. To learn more about applying for census jobs, visit 2020Census.gov/jobs.

The bureau has said it will send its official counts to President Donald Trump by the end of the year. Redistricting counts — important for Minnesota, which some fear is at risk of losing a congressional seat because of slowed population growth — are scheduled to be sent out to states by March 31, 2021.