ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.
30,383 - that's the magic number today from the Obama administration. It is a count, albeit a partial count, of jobs created or saved by the multibillion dollar stimulus package. And it's the first formal data the government has released about jobs associated with the stimulus. In a moment we'll hear from three states and from people who work some of those jobs. But first NPR's Brian Naylor has this story from Washington.
BRIAN NAYLOR: The job numbers reflect people who were hired by private contractors to do jobs for federal agencies - jobs like putting a new roof on a federal building or constructing a new fence at a military base. There are $16 billion worth of such contracts in the $787 billion stimulus - a tiny fraction, says Jared Bernstein. He's the chief economist for Vice President Biden who oversees the stimulus.
Mr. JARED BERNSTEIN (Chief Economist for Vice President Biden): I think the best way to think about this data is if you think of the Recovery Act as a big picture, you're looking at one corner of that picture that's being painted by these data.
NAYLOR: But Bernstein says that little corner of the big picture looks to him to be pretty significant. In fact, he says, this preliminary count exceeds the administration's projections. And it includes only direct jobs created by the contracts.
Mr. BERNSTEIN: Remember, somebody takes one of these jobs, one of these private workers on a contract, they're going to take their paycheck, they're going to go out and spend some of that money on groceries, on furnishings, whatever. That has multiplier effects. That creates more jobs.
NAYLOR: Bernstein says the numbers are also significant because it's the first time the government has attempted to track jobs created by a government program with such granularity in real time. The numbers were published on the Web site recovery.gov. A much bigger jobs number is expected at the end of the month when state and local governments report how they've spent stimulus dollars. The more complete picture will show things like construction workers hired to repair roads and teachers retained by local school districts. In New Orleans today, President Obama said the stimulus program is beginning to show results.
President BARACK OBAMA: Now the Recovery Act we passed earlier this year has helped stop the bleeding. Everybody agrees on that. It's put tax cuts in the pockets of working families and small businesses. It extended unemployment insurance and health insurance to people who've been laid off. It saved or created hundreds of thousands of jobs in the private sector.
NAYLOR: But critics of the program, including House Republican leader John Boehner, says the stimulus has done little to staunch the flow of jobs.
Representative JOHN BOEHNER (Republican, Ohio): The stimulus bill is not working. The American people are asking, where are the jobs?
NAYLOR: Economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who was John McCain's economic advisor in last year's presidential campaign, is also skeptical of the effect of the stimulus. The president has pledged the stimulus will create or save three and a half million jobs. Holtz-Eakin says today's release of job numbers is important politically for the administration.
Mr. DOUGLAS HOLTZ-EAKIN (Economist): It matters enormously which is why we're seeing this approach of bringing out numbers as quickly as possible and as often as possible to show tangible results for the bill.
NAYLOR: If you think of the stimulus program as election night, the jobs numbers released today are very early returns from a few scattered precincts. It's too soon to judge who is ahead yet, though, like on election night, there are many who think they do know the final results.
Brian Naylor, NPR News, Washington.
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