How Many Jobs Did the Stimulus Save?

The White House boasts that the Recovery Act saved 250,000 education jobs across the country. Does it matter?

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Last week, businesses with federal contracts reported that stimulus money--which has yet to be completely spent--helped them create 30,000 new jobs so far. The small numbers created big problems for the White House. Immediately, Republican criticism of the stimulus plan intensified. Monday, the White House hit back with a report that the Recovery Act has saved 250,000 state education jobs. But as the Obama administration scours the nation for signs of job creation, pundits can't decide if that number is meaningful at all.

  • Good News For the White House  The Atlantic's own Derek Thompson thinks the figure is proof that the stimulus is creating more jobs in the public sector than the private one. "Last week the White House reacted to another report that the stimulus saved or created 30,000 jobs in the private infrastructure sector. Even if that number seems a little low, it makes sense that the stimulus is creating/saving far more jobs in education than the private sector."
  • Saving the Status-Quo  At Education Weekly, Michele McNeil has a feeling that the money did little beyond recuperating teaching jobs that states were forced to cut before the stimulus arrived. "In the press release, Education Secretary Arne Duncan says: 'Early feedback from states also tells us that many districts are using stimulus dollars in ways that will move us beyond the status quo.' Given that most of the money has so far been used to get state K-12 funding levels up to the status quo, it will be most interesting to see what states and school districts report spending their money on."
  • Too Soon to Tell  The editors of the San Francisco Chronicle note that most of the stimulus money has yet to be spent. "In truth, these first job-creation numbers, listed on the Web site, amount to a sliver of a slice of the huge program. It's employment linked to only $16 billion in spending - about 2 percent of the program - doled out so far." The Chronicle sees "the first-blush figures" as a sign of "good things to come" for the White House. "There are overall signs that economic activity is reviving," they write.
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