WASHINGTON (CN) – The White House on Friday credited the recent economic upturn and the positive results of a job report on the Recovery Act. “These reports are strong confirmation that the Recovery Act is responsible for over one million jobs so far” Vice President Joe Biden said.
A stimulus report, released Friday by Chief Economist and Senior Advisor to the Vice President Jared Bernstein, shows that more than 640,000 jobs were directly created or saved, in addition to hundreds of thousands of jobs indirectly affected.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis also announced the day before that the nation’s economy grew by 3.5 percent during last quarter, marking a turnaround from more than a year of a shrinking economy.
The White House credited the legislation it backed for both results.
“If we didn’t have the Recovery Act, our gross domestic product would probably be somewhere near flat,” White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said during a press conference.
The White House explained that the number of actual jobs saved or created with stimulus funds is more than a million because the study only took into account jobs that were directly affected by the stimulus, and because it is based on feedback from recipients that received less than half of the stimulus funds, about $160 billion worth.
Of the $787 billion recovery package, roughly $340 billion has been distributed or designated.
This report, which relies on recipients to report back on how many jobs were directly created, is intended to give the best estimate so far of how many jobs were directly affected. Earlier figures have been mostly from economic estimates.
“Its kind of a meaningless number,” American Consumer Institute President Stephen Pociask said in questioning how the data was collected. “Why would you ask the daycare center for data? What makes them economists?”
“There needs to be a real macroeconomic measurement that economists have settled on,” he said.
Committee for Economic Development President Charles Kolb expressed a different perspective. When asked whether Americans should be skeptical of the job figure released by the administration, he said, “I take them at face value,” but added that regardless of the precise number, any creation or preservation of jobs is a good thing.
While he praised the efforts of the White House in stimulating the economy, Kolb suggested that the White House went too far in its claims that the Recovery Act was almost entirely responsible for economic growth. “Just like there were a lot of people to blame for the downturn,” he said. “I think there are a lot of individuals and organizations that will get credit for the turnaround.”
Education and construction were the most affected sectors. The White House said that of the 640,329 jobs directly saved or created under stimulus funds, more than half were education jobs at 325,000, and about 80,000 were construction jobs.
Biden said that the feedback indicates that Obama’s goal to have generated 3.5 million jobs by the end of next year remains on track.
First Democrats, and more recently, Republicans, have claimed that there is no way to determine how many jobs, if any, the Recovery Act is responsible for having saved or created.
The figure comes after an evaluation by the Associated Press found that the White House had overstated by thousands the number of jobs created or preserved under the stimulus funding.
The White House has since said it will correct the mistake in future reports.
Roughly ninety percent of recipients, or 131,000, answered the survey.
The stimulus report found that the states suffering from the highest unemployment have saved the most jobs per capita since the Recovery Act was put in place.