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Stimulus funded nearly 683,000 jobs in first quarter

By Tami Luhby, senior writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The White House's $787 billion stimulus plan funded 682,779 jobs in the first quarter, administration officials said Friday.

The figure captures the number of people whose jobs were directly paid for with stimulus money, such as teachers, cops and road construction workers. It's based on more than 179,000 reports filed by state, local and corporate recipients.

The number does not tally jobs created indirectly through companies buying supplies for stimulus projects, people spending their tax cuts, increased unemployment benefits and the like.

Stimulus jobs are reported on a quarterly basis and the figures are not cumulative. However, stimulus dollars awarded and distributed are tracked on a cumulative basis. A total of $205 billion has been awarded since the Recovery Act was passed in Feb. 2009 and $62 billion has been distributed to recipients.

In the fourth quarter of last year the stimulus plan funded about 600,000 jobs.

Still controversial

Fourteen months after it was enacted, the massive American Recovery & Reinvestment Act remains controversial. The administration credits it with helping to lift the nation out of a recession, while Republicans point to the stubbornly high 9.7% unemployment rate as evidence of its failure.

Friday's report comes two weeks after the White House's Council of Economic Advisers said the stimulus package was responsible for funding between 2.2 million and 2.8 million jobs through the first quarter of 2010. The program is on track to fund 3.5 million jobs by the end of the year, according to the council.

The difference between the two reports is that the council's figures are based on a mathematical formula that measures how much money has flowed out the federal door and includes both the direct and indirect hires.

Several governors praised the stimulus funds as producing jobs in their states.

Pennsylvania Gov. Edward Rendell said the state had created or retained more than 15,200 full-time equivalent jobs in the first quarter of this year, a 112% increase over the last quarter of 2009, directly due the stimulus investments.

"There is no question that the Federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act helped boost our numbers," he said.

Questions remain

Despite these rosy reports from the Obama administration, many Americans and corporate economists question just how much impact the Recovery Act actually had.

Some 73% of economists working at companies said employment at their firms is neither higher nor lower as a result of the stimulus program, according to a National Association for Business Economists survey released Monday.

Meanwhile, 62% of those responding to a recent Pew Research Center for the Press survey said the stimulus package has not helped the job situation.

Republicans, meanwhile, did not waste time attacking the administration. Even before the numbers were issued, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., said the job figures were fictitious.

"The American people reject the Administration's claims on stimulus job creation and the flawed economic theory behind the assertion that massive deficit spending would fix our economy," Issa said in a report released Thursday afternoon. To top of page

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