What White House Jobs Report Really Means

More than 30,000 jobs have been created as a result of the Obama administration's stimulus bill. The figure comes from the first accounting of this data released by the White House on Thursday.

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For the first time, we have a concrete idea of how many jobs we're getting from the federal stimulus. Up to now, most claims about the spending plan have been based on economic models - estimates at best. Now, Federal Contractors have reported some specific numbers. The contractors say they created just over 30,000 jobs. They received only a small slice of the $787 billion, but their report has set off a big debate.

NPR's Brian Naylor reports.

BRIAN NAYLOR: The job numbers were posted yesterday at the Web site recovery.gov, part of the administration's effort to make the stimulus spending transparent. The jobs posted reflect workers hired by private employers with government contracts, jobs like putting a new roof on a federal building or construction work at a military base. There are $16 billion worth of such contracts in the stimulus bill, about two percent of the stimulus spending, according to Jared Bernstein. He's Vice President Biden's chief economist. Bernstein says the preliminary numbers are but a corner of the big picture, but he says it shows the program is working.

Mr. JARED BERNSTEIN (Chief Economist to Vice President Joe Biden): We're very much on track to create or save about a million jobs so far, three and a half million jobs before we're done. Now, no one, including the president and the vice president ever thought or advertised this as fully offsetting the deepest recession since the Great Depression, but it certainly has helped to offset some of the pain.

NAYLOR: Bernstein's boss, Vice President Biden, was in St. Louis yesterday, where he sounded a similar note.

Vice President JOE BIDEN: I'm here today to tell you, mainly to give you hope, that we are making genuine progress - real progress. We've got a lot further to go. But I believe we've made a great start.

NAYLOR: But Republicans continue to criticize the stimulus as ineffective, pointing to the nearly 10 percent national unemployment rate. House Minority Leader John Boehner issued a statement saying, quote, "No amount of happy talk can paper over this administration's broken promises and faulty projections." Douglas Holtz Aiken, who served as GOP presidential candidate John McCain's economic advisor in last year's campaign, says the report of 30,000 jobs doesn't amount to much.

Mr. DOUGLAS HOLTZ AIKEN: (Former Economic Advisor to John McCain): I don't think this is going to win the political battle. This is a really weak number.

NAYLOR: A bigger number is expected at the end of the month, when the government reports on the jobs created by state and local governments and from grants. Mary Bufwack is the CEO of United Neighborhood Health Services in Nashville. Her company has received some two-and-a-half-million dollars in stimulus grants for community clinics it runs.

Ms. MARY BUFWACK (CEO, United Neighborhood Health Services): So far, in the nine months of stimulus, we've spent about 200,000. We've hired 23 new staff people. We've seen 3,600 new patients in that time.

NAYLOR: The numbers to be released in two weeks will also include those hired as workers on road construction projects and teachers who are able to keep their jobs. That will give a slightly more complete picture of the effect the stimulus is having on the still-struggling economy.

Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington.

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