- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 31, 2009

In its most extensive analysis to date, the Obama administration said Friday that money spent under its $787 billion economic stimulus plan has directly saved or created 640,329 jobs, but the White House faced new Republican complaints that the plan’s benefits are being badly oversold.

With about $150 billion allocated so far and another $288 billion in the plan, administration officials said stimulus dollars are directly and indirectly responsible for creating or saving more than 1 million jobs, and that the program is on track to reach 3.5 million jobs when fully implemented.

The newly released estimates are not likely to end the debate about job gains resulting from the recovery plan or about its long-term impact on the economy and the federal treasury.

Jeff Berkowitz, research director of the Republican National Committee, said the White House’s jobs claims are hard to square with the nation’s weak labor market and a jobless rate approaching 10 percent.

“It is clear the Obama administration is trying to cover up economic reality by manufacturing job numbers out of thin air,” he said.

The economy is showing clear signs of emerging from the deep, 23-month recession. A Commerce Department report Thursday found the economy grew at a pace of 3.5 percent in the third quarter after four straight quarters of decline. But the growth - propped up heavily by federal stimulus dollars - has yet to spur hiring.

The U.S. unemployment rate stands at 9.8 percent, with the October number due out Friday.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs called the new GDP numbers “the beginning of better things.”

“For those who have said the stimulus plan is not working, you’d be hard pressed to back that up,” he said.

The administration’s job claims took a hit this week when the Associated Press said a preliminary White House report overstated the number of stimulus-related jobs, based on an analysis of a series of stimulus-related programs and projects.

Showing the political sensitivity of the economic debate, the White House fired back at the AP analysis at midnight Thursday with a 12-point rebuttal letter, while promising that the updated stimulus job estimates released Friday would provide a clearer and more accurate view of the program’s impact.

The latest White House numbers come from reports filed in early October by state and local governments, companies, colleges and universities and community groups that received stimulus funds.

The majority of the jobs reported were in education (325,000) and construction (about 80,000), according to the White House.

“This is another encouraging sign … but the president and I will not be satisfied until monthly reports show net job growth,” said Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., the administration’s point man in defending the stimulus package.

The reports do not include higher-education grants or the impact of unemployment compensation. The money went to about 100,000 recipients and sub-recipients. And roughly 70 percent of the money went to state governments. About 10 percent of the recipients did not file reports, the White House said.

Mr. Obama got a vote of confidence Friday from visiting Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California, who - unlike a number of fellow Republican governors - has embraced the stimulus package.

“Send double,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said at an event with Mr. Biden and Maryland Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley, when asked if his budget-strapped state wanted more federal dollars.

A detailed, state-by-state report can be found on www.recovery.gov.

Jared Bernstein, Mr. Biden’s chief economist, said states with the highest unemployment rates reported 25 percent more jobs created and saved per capita than did the country as a whole.

But House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, contended that the unemployment numbers show the stimulus package “isn’t working, and no amount of phony statistics can change that.”

He added, “America has lost more than 3 million jobs since [the stimulus bill passed in February], and the unemployment rate is nearing double digits.”

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