Our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy have changed.

By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to the new Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

White House changes how stimulus jobs are counted

By Tami Luhby, senior writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Now we'll never know just how many jobs were funded by the $787 billion stimulus program.

Until a policy change last month, Obama administration officials had said they would keep a running count of the number of jobs created or saved by the massive American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Going forward, the White House will only tally jobs one quarter at a time and not attempt to determine a total.

On top of that, the administration has directed Recovery Act recipients to report all jobs funded with stimulus money - regardless of whether they were new jobs or existing ones. That change gets rid of the controversial "jobs saved" designation, which asked recipients to determine which positions would have been eliminated were it not for stimulus.

The new requirements apply to the reports that recipients are filing now for the last three months of 2009. Those figures, which will be released to the public by month's end, will be the second concrete look at stimulus' employment impact. The first tally showed that 640,000 jobs were created or saved through September.

"We are trying to make it as easy and simple for the funding recipients," said Tom Gavin, a spokesman for the White House's Office of Management and Budget.

The change did not garner much attention until Monday, when Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., criticized it, saying the new policy disguises stimulus' failure.

The Recovery Act's impact on employment has been a flashpoint since the massive package was enacted last February. The administration has said the act is on track to create or save 3.5 million jobs. Unlike the quarterly recipient reports, the 3.5 million figure includes positions directly funded by the program, as well as those that economists believe were created or saved by increased consumer, business and government spending.

Congressional Republicans, pointing to the 10% unemployment rate, argue the stimulus program has been a gigantic waste of money that has done little to boost employment or help the economy.

The recent change is tantamount to "cooking the books," said Issa, the top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

"They are trying to inflate the numbers because the numbers don't look that good," Issa said. "They want a better number."

Simplifying the reporting

Administration officials decided to change the reporting guidelines after meeting with funding recipients, federal agencies and economists. The shift is in line with recommendations made by the Government Accountability Office, which also raised concerns about the accuracy of the jobs tally released in October.

One of recipients' main complaints about the reporting process concerned the "jobs saved" designation.

"The recipients were telling us they were having trouble determining whether a job was saved or not," said Yvonne Jones, a director on the GAO's strategic issues team.

The new definition is clearer and simpler and should increase the accuracy of the jobs figure, Gavin said.

Economists said the change would not alter their view of the stimulus package and its impact on employment.

Gus Faucher, director of macroeconomics at Moody's Economy.com, said he doesn't put too much stock in the quarterly reports because they don't measure stimulus' full impact on the economy.

"This may get us slightly closer to the truth, but it is still only one part of stimulus," said Faucher, who supports the program. "It doesn't get at the indirect jobs, which over the long run are more important."

Likewise, Allan Meltzer, a political economy professor at Carnegie Mellon University, said the change doesn't mean much. Meltzer, who opposes the stimulus package, skewered the administration in October for trying to tally jobs saved.

"They are playing a numbers game," said Meltzer, who served on the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration. "I don't think the object should be to try to improve the numbers. It should be to try to create jobs and they are not creating jobs." To top of page

Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,689.86 -56.12 -0.32%
Nasdaq 5,128.28 -0.50 -0.01%
S&P 500 2,103.84 -4.79 -0.23%
Treasuries 2.20 -0.06 -2.78%
Data as of 10:55pm ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 17.88 -0.25 -1.38%
Micron Technology In... 18.51 -1.39 -6.98%
Facebook Inc 94.01 -1.20 -1.26%
Apple Inc 121.30 -1.07 -0.87%
Frontier Communicati... 4.72 0.09 1.94%
Data as of Jul 31


Some families are outraged at the sums they've been offered by Lufthansa as compensation for the Germanwings plane crash in March which killed 150 people. More

The U.S. economy has had pretty ho-hum start to 2015. But the stage is set for a strong second half of the year. More

Fast-food chains that operate in more than 30 locations nationwide are the sole target of a new rule in New York to hike their minimum wage to $15. But consumers and small business owners, as well as some employees, may be the ones to pay the price. More

You can't blame it on the economy anymore. More Millennials now have jobs, but are still living at home. More