Over the weekend, in fact, the administration released the latest figures showing the impact of the stimulus package on jobs, announcing that nearly 600,000 jobs had been financed directly in the fourth quarter of 2009. But it changed the definition of those jobs, making it hard for Congress or the public to keep score and learn how the stimulus is doing.
From February to September, the administration had said, more than 640,000 jobs were saved or created. But in the final quarter of 2009, the administration no longer asked recipients whether all of those jobs were actually created or saved by the stimulus money or whether some of those jobs might have existed without the stimulus money.
Instead, it now simply counts all existing jobs paid for with stimulus money as saved jobs, whether or not they would have been lost without the money.
The new, more expansive definition will make it more difficult to isolate the effects of the stimulus law, which is officially called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, but should make it easier for states and employers to calculate jobs. But the new definition also means that the new tally of 599,108 jobs reported in the fourth quarter cannot be compared with the earlier figures from 2009.
Figuring out whether jobs were actually created or saved by the stimulus ultimately proved too subjective, officials said. The Obama administration originally asked states and employers receiving stimulus money to file reports detailing how many jobs they had created, and how many jobs they had been able to retain “that would not have continued to be filled” without the stimulus money.
But when the recipients filed their first reports last fall, some decided to count nearly every job that was paid for with stimulus money as a “saved” job, while others only counted the jobs that would have actually been lost without the money. Their job tallies varied wildly, even for similar work paid for with similar amounts of money.
Even with the new, simplified definition, there was some confusion.
While you can now get a better idea of the number of jobs that are being funded by the stimulus package, it does nothing to address the fact that the unemployment rate remains at or above 10% (based on the U3 rate, and well above that when examining the U6 rate as per the BLS reports) only because the BLS continues to draw down the actual size of the US workforce.
If you want to know why the Obama Administration is losing support on economic issues; this is it in a nutshell. By trotting out the bogus metric, it showed that the Administration was more interested in showing that money was being flung around without regard to whether it was actually creating jobs and doing what the Administration intended. Unemployment rates continued rising (and are still rising in some parts of the country) and the stimulus package has had no effect on the unemployment rate (though supporters may argue that but for the stimulus package, the unemployment rates would be much higher - and that's countered by the fact that the Administration said that the stimulus package would cap unemployment at rates around 8%, where no stimulus would lead to unemployment at around 9%).