Stimulus saved or created 650,000 jobs: US

WASHINGTON: About 650,000 jobs have been saved or created under President Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan, the White House said Friday, saying the president's goal of 3.5 million jobs by the end of next year is on track.

New job numbers from businesses, contractors, state and local governments, nonprofit groups and universities were scheduled to be released publicly later Friday. White House economic adviser Jared Bernstein said the figures will show that, when adding in jobs linked to $288 billion in tax cuts, the stimulus plan has created or saved more than 1 million jobs.

Government recovery plans — everything from the $787 billion stimulus to tax credits for buying new homes to government deals on new cars — are credited with helping the economy grow again after a record four straight losing quarters.

But the job market has yet to show signs of recovery, putting pressure on the White House to show that the stimulus was worth its hefty price tag. The economy has shed millions of jobs since Obama signed the stimulus in February, giving Republicans ammunition to say the government is spending too much for too little effect.

The White House says the report bolsters its case that the economy would have been far worse without the stimulus — a package of government spending, tax cuts, state aide and social programs.

Friday's data will have its limitations, since calculating "jobs saved" will always produce an inexact estimate and collecting data from so many sources is certain to produce errors. But the number released Friday represents the most accurate head count of stimulus jobs to date, one that is more precise than previous estimates based on White House economic formulas.

And it represents the most extensive effort ever by any administration to calculate the effect of a spending program in real time.

"It's a great example of the unprecedented transparency, where the American taxpayer can point and click and see their taxes creating jobs," Bernstein said.

The White House promised the data would be far more reliable than the first batch of numbers, on federal contracts, which the administration initially embraced, then branded a "test run" after thousands of errors were discovered.

Teachers are expected to represent the largest number of jobs in the report. With state budgets in crisis, federal aid helped governors avoid major cuts in education, which officials said spared hundreds of thousands of teachers from the unemployment line.

In Indiana, where officials reported saving 13,000 teaching jobs, Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels warned against putting too much stock in the job numbers.

"I personally wouldn't try to tell a taxpayer that this had any effect that I can see on the economy or let alone that there is some specific number of jobs attached to it," Daniels said earlier this month.

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, said Friday "there's just no doubt" that the federal aide spared 6,100 government jobs, including teachers, police officers and firefighters, in his state.

"There would have been dramatic layoffs," he said.