Census Bureau Senior Foreign Trade Statistician Milton Kaufman retired last October after more than 64 years of continuous service in the federal government. Kaufman, 87, shares with one person the distinction of having the longest tenure of any other active federal employee.
In 1933, fresh from completing a master's degree in mathematics at the City College of New York, Kaufman was hired to crunch numbers for the Works Progress Administration, an agency created during President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's administration to lower the country's unemployment rate during the Depression. The young Kaufman earned $18 a week. A year later, he moved to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and began his uninterrupted federal career. More than 80 percent of the nation's current population had not yet been born when he was hired.
In 1942, Kaufman arrived at the Census Bureau where he helped collect data to compile indicators of the country's exports and imports. His work often mirrored the historic events surrounding him. One of his first assignments was to help prepare a classified report listing export cargo on vessels sunk by the enemy during World War II. In 1956, when Kaufman was then chief of the bureau's Foreign Trade Division's Export Statistics branch, the current monthly export statistics file was among the early jobs processed by the agency's first computer, UNIVAC. The mainframe, Kaufman recalls, took up an entire room.