WASHINGTON President Barack Obama's economic stimulus package saved or created nearly 600,000 jobs in the final three months of 2009, the White House said in a report likely to intensify debate over a new jobs bill.
With unemployment at a 26-year high of 10 percent, Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress are eager to boost job growth and will use the report on the federal website www.recovery.gov to gauge the impact of the $787 billion stimulus plan passed last year.
Democrats want to build support for new jobs legislation, including a package Senate Democrats expect to unveil in the coming week.
The House of Representatives recently passed a jobs bill modeled after the package of direct spending and tax breaks that was meant to combat the worst recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The new report, posted late on Saturday, showed 599,108 stimulus-related jobs reported by recipients of funding between October 1 and December 31, 2009.
California, one of the states that has lost the most jobs in the recession, posted 71,015 stimulus-related jobs for the fourth quarter. Michigan, which consistently has the highest unemployment rate in the nation, listed 20,140 such jobs.
But the report's accuracy came under immediate attack.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a private research group, and others said it had not counted jobs indirectly created by spending on extra unemployment benefits, increased Medicaid reimbursements and tax cuts.
The site's previous job creation report, which estimated 640,239 jobs were saved or created through the end of September, was riddled with errors because some recipients of stimulus funds did not know how to report the impact on jobs.
Republicans and some companies attacked the previous report as having over-counted the number of jobs created and saved.
The new report used a different methodology.
Those who receive grants and loans through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for projects such as highway repair are required to make quarterly reports on how the money has been spent.
Earlier this month, the White House Council of Economic Advisers estimated there would have been 1.5 million to 2 million fewer jobs in 2009 if not for the stimulus funds.
That would mean a total of a little more than 1.2 million jobs were created or saved in 2009, versus the Council's forecast of 1.5 million to 2 million jobs, though comparisons are difficult.
Last month, Vice President Joe Biden addressed another problem with the report when he noted that some recipients have not entered data at all. Propublica, an investigative journalism group tracking the government's pledge to keep stimulus awards transparent, said more than 2,500 recipients never turned in tallies for the report released in October.
Biden pledged to crack down on recipients who were "non-compliant" in reporting.
(Reporting by Lisa Lambert and Jim Wolf, editing by Peter Henderson and Paul Simao)