Economic stimulus created 600,000 jobs at the end of 2009

The Obama administration's economic stimulus program created nearly 600,000 jobs during the last three months of 2009, which is in line with the administration's goals for job creation through 2010, according to The Washington Post.

The jobs figure is down from totals reported during the previous quarter in part because the administration decided in December 2009 to count only the jobs paid for with stimulus funding instead of the controversial method of estimating the number of jobs "created or saved" using the stimulus funding.

On Jan. 30, the federal government released about 160,000 quarterly spending reports from stimulus recipients representing about 20 percent of the stimulus program's spending; federal law requires the release of reports involving infrastructure and education spending.

Mistakes were discovered in several quarterly reports during fall 2009, including phantom ZIP codes and nonexistent congressional districts. However, the computer program recipients used to submit their spending information online has been updated so it now checks to ensure geographic information is correct.

"We tried not to do too much of that the first time because we were trying to get recipients to report without all these edit checks," says Earl Devaney, chairman of the federal board responsible for stimulus oversight. "But, quite frankly, they made so many errors in their reporting that we felt this time we had to build them in."

Devaney says he expects most recipients will be more careful in the future when they report spending.

However, Craig Jennings, a fiscal policy analyst with the nonpartisan OMB Watch, says his group wants recipients to report the number of hours worked by employees instead of the number of jobs created.

"Count the number of hours funded by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars, then let the experts decide if that's a job," he says.

Vice President Joe Biden says although the reporting process has its flaws, the transparency the government is offering is important.

"Because this is a partial survey based on reports filed by recipients, we know it's not perfect or complete," he says. "But it is providing a level of detail about a government program that has never before been made available to the public."

Date : 2/2/2010