WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama White House on Friday said the $787 billion economic stimulus plan approved early this year had saved or created 640,329 jobs so far.
The stimulus package of spending and tax measures, pushed through the U.S. Congress in February by President Barack Obama’s Democrats, has been heavily criticized by Republicans because it has done little to stop U.S. unemployment from rising to its current 9.8 percent.
Vice President Joe Biden, flanked by the governors of California and Maryland at the White House, said the stimulus actually had a larger impact on the work force.
“So far we’ve created over a million jobs,” Biden said. “We’re only about a third of the way through the package.”
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.
The information, which covered $160 billion of stimulus obligations through September 30, was compiled into a national snapshot posted at www.recovery.gov. Only $38 billion of those funds have been paid out, said Jared Bernstein, an economic advisor to Biden.
The majority of jobs backed with stimulus dollars were in education — 325,000 — and construction — 80,000, the White House said.
Debate has erupted over counting a job as “saved.” Recipients indicate the proportion of pay for a full-time job that is covered by stimulus dollars. Many do not end up with round numbers and the report does not show how many workers would have lost jobs.
Most of the projects in the report are not complete, Bernstein said, indicating the jobs will last for a while.
Earlier this month, a report based on information from recipients showed just federal contracts awarded under the plan had translated into little more than 30,000 jobs.
Critics say the recipient data is incomplete and riddled with inconsistencies, especially in defining a full-time job.
The reports do not capture the job impact of the tax cuts, direct payments to individuals through such programs as Pell Grants for college education and unemployment compensation.
They also do not include projections of jobs that may have been indirectly preserved, such as those from vendors providing supplies to construction firms. Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell told reporters on Thursday the report undercounts jobs created because it does not include these “secondary” effects.
“It’s just a fraction of the impact that’s actually happening,” said Rendell, a Democrat.
Projections of how many workers now draw paychecks backed by the stimulus range from groups such as the Congressional Budget Office and Moody’s Economy.com range from 600,000 to 1.53 million.
A recent Labor Department report showed that from September 2008 to last month the country lost more than 1 million jobs, and that since February it has lost more 3 million.
Obama has pledged the stimulus will keep 3 million people employed over its two-year life.
Republicans said the report’s numbers were likely overblown and pointed to problems in the earlier contractors report.
“It’s bewildering to see the same administration claiming it created 1 million jobs...especially since it is a sad fact 3 million jobs have been lost since the stimulus was signed into law,” said Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.
Initially Colorado reported having 4,695 jobs through stimulus contracts, but according to the Denver Post the state revised that recently to 830 jobs. As Friday’s report was being posted, Rhode Island announced it had cut its job estimate to 1,489.49 from the 1,703.45 it told the federal government.
There will be further revisions to the numbers, said Ed DeSeve, the former Philadelphia finance director advising the White House on the plan’s implementation, as recipients and the federal government catch errors. The U.S. government cannot change or edit the data recipients provide.
California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said his state has received $12.5 billion out of $50 billion in stimulus money and pleaded for the rest of it to be distributed soon.
“It’s not a Democratic or Republican issue,” the Republican governor told reporters. “It’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs.”
Additional reporting by Andy Sullivan and Tabassum Zakaria in Washington; Editing by Diane Craft