Reality Check: AP Story Misleads on Recovery Act Job Reporting

Reality Check

You may have seen a misleading Associated Press story this morning on the accuracy of Recovery Act job reports that were posted earlier this month on Recovery.gov. On the same day that we learned that the economy has begun to grow again for the first time in over year, the very critics who opposed economic rescue from the beginning are now trying use this misleading story to twist the truth about the early success of the Recovery Act.

Here is what you should know:

Governors, mayors, county executives, private businesses and community organizations across the country submit reports to Recovery.gov so that you can get an unprecedented look at how your taxpayer dollars are being spent creating jobs and boosting the economy through the Recovery Act. These reports are not from the federal government – but from the very people putting Recovery funds to work.

Our top priority is ensuring that, when the reports are posted on Recovery.gov tomorrow, you will get the most accurate look possible at what has taken place with the Recovery Act over the last eight months. That’s why we have been working with the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board – an independent oversight body – and the actual people that submitted the reports to conduct an extensive three-week review of them.

Three business days into the review, the Board posted a preliminary portion of those reports – just federal contracts which represent less than 2 percent of the Recovery Act and are a sliver of the information collected – on Recovery.gov so that you could get a look at what had been turned in initially. We support the Board’s act of transparency – but were clear that day that we considered the reports "partial and preliminary" and noted that it was "too soon to draw any global conclusions" from them.

Our twenty-day review wraps up today and we can say with confidence that the full set of reports going up tomorrow – corrected versions of the reports posted on October 15th, and many more new reports being posted for the first time now -- are far sharper than the initial ones you saw two weeks ago. In fact, our review process had already caught four out of five items that AP's misleading story cites as “over-counting” jobs. With every review of the reports, with every call to the person filing them to confirm them, the information has gotten better and better – and we are looking forward to their public posting tomorrow. It will be a historic moment for government transparency.

Here are the real facts on AP's misleading story: 

“The government has overstated by thousands the number of jobs it has created or saved with federal contracts under the president’s $787 billion recovery program, according to an Associated Press review of data released in the program’s first progress report.”

FACT: The reports are not from the government, but from the very people putting Recovery Act funds to work – governors, mayors, county executives, private businesses and community organizations across the country. We take our responsibly of reviewing these reports for accuracy very seriously – that’s why we are putting them through an extensive three-week review process that ends today. And the initial preliminary set of data representing just a sliver of the overall reports was not posted by the government – but by an independent oversight body overseeing our Recovery Act efforts. 

“The errors could be magnified Friday when a much larger round of reports is released.”

FACT: The federal contract data AP reviewed was a test run posting of a small sub-set of the data that was made available to the public after less than three business days of review time. The full data that will be posted on Friday will have undergone an extensive review process for twenty days involving the Recovery Board, federal agencies and direct communication with the recipients themselves. So the data posted this Friday will be more accurate – not less – than what was posted on October 15th.

FACT: The federal contract data AP surveyed represents just 2 percent of overall Recovery Act spending and just a fraction of what will be posted on Recovery.gov on Friday. It does not provide a statistically significant indication of the quality of the full reporting that will come on Friday.  

"A Colorado company said it created 4,231 jobs with the help of President Barack Obama's economic recovery plan. The real number: fewer than 1,000."

FACT: The very first example AP cites was already corrected more than a week ago as part of the twenty-day review process and the change is in the final data posting being prepared for Friday. This item represents over 3,000 – or 60 percent – of the “nearly 5,000 jobs” AP uses to try to make its argument.

FACT: The company in question actually did hire more than 4,000 workers – but because the work was not full time, full year work, the rigorous standards at Recovery.gov don’t count it as 4,000 workers. AP is wrong in saying that 4,000 workers is not a “real” number: 4,000 people got paychecks and got work thanks to the Recovery Act. The posting was erroneous because our higher standards only count the equivalent of full-time, full-year jobs as jobs “created or saved.”

FACT: All recipients were given through October 30th to clarify and confirm their data – including those linked to federal contracts. Any conclusions drawn about the quality of that small portion of data as it was posted two weeks ago are simply premature.

"Officials at East Central Technical College in Douglas, Ga., said they now know they shouldn't have claimed 280 stimulus jobs linked to more than $200,000 to buy three semi-trucks and trailers for commercial driving instruction, and a modular classroom and bathroom for a health education program."

FACT: This item – which represents less than .06 percent of the total jobs reported was also already corrected more than a week ago as part of the twenty-day review process and the change is in the final data posting being prepared for Friday.

FACT: All recipients were given through October 30th to clarify and confirm their data – including those linked to federal contracts. Any conclusions drawn about the quality of that small portion of data as it was posted two weeks ago are simply premature.

"The San Joaquin, Calif., Regional Rail Commission reported creating or saving 125 jobs as part of a stimulus project to lay railroad track. Because the project drew from two pools of money, the commission reported that figure twice, bringing the total to 250."

FACT: This item – which represents less than .04 percent of the total jobs reported - was also already corrected as part of the twenty-day review process and the change is in the final data posting being prepared for Friday.

FACT: All recipients were given through October 30th to clarify and confirm their data – including those linked to federal contracts. Any conclusions drawn about the quality of that small portion of data as it was posted two weeks ago are simply premature.

"The Toledo, Ohio-based Koring Group also received two FCC contracts to help people make the switch to digital television. The company reported hiring 26 people for each of the two contracts, bringing its total jobs to 54 on the government's official count. But the company cited the same 26 workers for both contracts, meaning the same jobs were counted twice. The job count was further inflated because each job lasted only about two months, so each worker should have counted as one-sixth of a full-time job."

FACT: This item – which represents less than .01 percent of the total jobs reported - was also already corrected as part of the twenty-day review process and the change is in the final data posting being prepared for Friday.

FACT: All recipients were given through October 30th to clarify and confirm their data – including those linked to federal contracts. Any conclusions drawn about the quality of that small portion of data as it was posted two weeks ago are simply premature.

"While the thousands of overstated jobs represent a tiny sliver of the overall economy, they represent a significant percentage of the initial employment count credited to the stimulus program."

FACT: The overestimate of “thousands” of jobs AP cites is out of hundreds of thousands of jobs that will be reported overall on Friday – the vast majority of which underwent the more extensive twenty-day vetting process.

FACT: Even if you remove the “nearly 5,000 jobs” from the total federal contracts job number, it is still in-line with government and private forecaster’s estimates of about one million Recovery Act jobs overall to-date.

 

Ed DeSeve is Coordinator of Recovery Implementation

Related Topics: Economy, California, Colorado, Ohio
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