Just How Many Jobs Is The Stimulus Responsible For?

The Associated Press reports the number of jobs created or saved by the stimulus bill has been vastly inflated by the Obama Administration. Obama's senior adviser David Axelrod told host Scott Simon the AP was "extrapolating from a small piece of information," and that the administration believes it will achieve its goal of creating several million jobs. NPR news analyst Juan Williams talks with Simon about how this issue might play out.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

And we're joined now by NPR News analyst Juan Williams. Juan, thanks for being with us. And we asked Mr. Axelrod about that Associated Press report that the number of jobs created or saved by the stimulus bill has been vastly inflated. He said AP was, quote, "extrapolating from a small piece of information. We believe we're going to hit our goal, which was to create several million jobs. But the bigger goal is to get the economy growing again. So this week we saw that growth. Numbers were in a positive direction for the first time since last year."

How do you think this issue's going to play out?

JUAN WILLIAMS: Well, on this Halloween, Scott, let me say it's a trick-or-treat, good-news-bad-news situation. I'd say the good news is this week we heard there's a 3.5 percent growth in the gross domestic product in the third quarter of the year, which marked an apparent end to the recession. Obviously it's been the longest recession our nation's seen since World War II - that's good news.

The bad news is we have a very high, persistent unemployment rate - 9.8 percent at the moment. And you think about the spending that has been put into the stimulus package. Everyone's aware of the astronomical levels of debt that the government's incurring.

So politically then, it's become a tricky deal because the test of the stimulus now has become one item alone - job creation - and I think that when you - what you heard from David Axelrod is saying, wait a second, you've got to look at the fact that the stimulus spending has helped to - and here I'm quoting from your interview - helped to stem the flow - stem the momentum of this recession.

So he's trying to broaden that picture for the way that voters, especially in New Jersey or Virginia this coming week…

SIMON: Going to the polls on Tuesday.

WILLIAMS: …will think about what's going on with stimulus spending. But I'm just back from Colorado and there in Governor Ritter's state, seven percent unemployment and they're talking about jobs and the stimulus as having played an important role in keeping the state afloat. Governor Schwarzenegger was at the White House for this announcement on stimulus spending, and he said coming from California, a state with 12 percent unemployment, tremendous help coming from the stimulus.

The New York Times this morning, though, has an interesting story in which it says that really people should think about this stimulus package more in terms of teachers. They said that 325,000 of the 640,000 jobs being created or saved, claimed by the White House, only 80,000 - 325,000 of those jobs were teachers, only 80,000 in construction.

So I think what you're seeing here is a conversation about what is the impact and how will Republicans play it versus how Democrats play it. And the Republicans are saying it's just about jobs and the White House has not kept their pledge of eight percent unemployment or less, and the White House is saying it would have been worse if not for the spending that's already in place.

SIMON: NPR News analyst Juan Williams, thanks so much.

WILLIAMS: You're welcome, Scott.

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