Archive for Thursday, October 29, 2009

Stimulus job numbers overstated by thousands

October 29, 2009


— A Colorado company said it created 4,231 jobs with the help of President Barack Obama’s economic recovery plan. The real number: fewer than 1,000.

A child care center in Florida said it saved 129 jobs with the help of stimulus money. Instead, it gave pay raises to its existing employees.

Elsewhere in the U.S., some jobs credited to the stimulus program were counted two, three, four or even more times.

The government has overstated by thousands the number of jobs it has created or saved with federal contracts under the president’s $787 billion recovery program, according to an Associated Press review of data released in the program’s first progress report.

The discrepancy raises questions about the reliability of a key benchmark the administration uses to gauge the success of the stimulus. The errors could be magnified Friday when a much larger round of reports is released. It is expected to show hundreds of thousands of jobs repairing public housing, building schools, repaving highways and keeping teachers on local payrolls.

The White House seized on an initial report from a government oversight board weeks ago that claimed federal contracts awarded to businesses under the recovery plan already had helped pay for more than 30,000 jobs. The administration said the number was evidence that the stimulus program had exceeded early expectations toward reaching the president’s promise of creating or saving 3.5 million jobs by the end of next year.

But the 30,000 figure is overstated by thousands — at the very least by nearly 5,000, or one in six, based on AP’s limited review of some of the contracts — because some federal agencies and recipients of the money provided incorrect job counts. The review found some counts were more than 10 times as high as the actual number of jobs; some jobs were credited to stimulus spending when, in fact, none were produced.

The White House says it is aware there are problems. Ed DeSeve, an Obama adviser helping to oversee the stimulus program, said agencies have been working with businesses that received the money to correct mistakes. Other errors discovered by the public also will be corrected, he said.

“If there’s an error that was made, let’s get it fixed,” DeSeve said.

There’s no evidence the White House sought to inflate job numbers in the report, but the administration embraced the flawed figures the moment they were released.

The figures released earlier this month claimed jobs linked to roughly $16 billion in federal contracts, an initial report on a small fraction of the total stimulus program. DeSeve said federal officials had only a few days to go through the data for errors before they were made public.

It’s not clear just how far off the 30,000 claim was. The AP’s review, which was not an exhaustive accounting of all 9,000 contracts reported by the government so far, homed in on the most obvious cases of jobs wrongly tied to the stimulus because of duplications or misinterpretations of how the jobs should be counted.


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