New Reports from Recovery Act Recipients

A short time ago, the independent Recovery and Transparency Board posted the latest round of reports from recipients of Recovery Act dollars on Recovery.gov.  These reports provide a detailed look at how a portion of Recovery Act spending was put to work in the last three months of last year creating jobs and boosting local economies.   

If you visit Recovery.gov, you will see how you can pull up the latest map, type in your zip code and zoom in to get a closer look at how some Recovery Act projects are unfolding right in your own backyard.  Take for example my hometown, the great city of Philadelphia.  If I zoom in on the map, I can see details on Recovery Act projects - including who the dollars went to, when they got them and how many workers were funded last quarter through them.  And if you zoom back out to look at all of last quarter’s reports, you’ll see the total number or workers these recipients reported paying in that three month period using this small portion of Recovery dollars.

Now, you’ll notice I keep saying “some projects” and a “portion of spending” – that’s key here.  While these reports provide an extraordinary level of detail about Recovery Act projects, they only cover about $50 billion – or one fifth- of Recovery Act spending and tax relief through the end of last year.  Congress asked that these reports only be filed by a portion of Recovery Act recipients – specifically those putting the dollars to work in areas like infrastructure projects and education spending.

So that gives you a pretty good sense of what the reports and related jobs numbers do include: the number of workers recipients of a small pool of Recovery Act funds report they funded in the last three months of 2009 with Recovery Act dollars.  That’s an informative sample that tells us a lot about the kinds of projects underway, how far along they are and what sort of direct employment impact they may be having.  But here is what they don’t show us:

  • Jobs funded by those dollars from previous or future quarters.  Remember, that $50 billion may have also funded jobs before October 1, 2009 – and may fund more jobs in the future.
  • The job impact of the other 80 percent of Recovery Act spending last quarter which includes things like small business loans, tax credits, and financial assistance for individuals and families – all of which are job-creators.
  •  Any jobs where the salary was not directly paid with Recovery Act dollars like the worker hired by the subcontractor for a government contract.  Or the worker hired by the asphalt quarry supplying asphalt for a half dozen Recovery Act projects.  Or the fast food worker hired because of the growing lunch rush due to a Recovery Act project underway across the street.

It’s also important to keep in mind that posting this level of information about a Federal Government program in full public view like this is quite simply unprecedented -- it’s never been done before in the entire history of our government.  And these reports are no ordinary government-released reports.  They come directly from the recipients of Recovery dollars themselves -- people like local government employees, community organization administrators and small business owners who don’t count jobs for a living.  While these are honest efforts to be as accurate as possible, we know they’re not perfect. 

With all of that in mind – just how many jobs has the Recovery Act created?  Is it the 599,108 number for this quarter posted on Recovery.gov?  Nope – remember, that represents just a portion of the job impact in the fourth quarter.  Is it that 599,108 number this quarter plus last quarter’s number?  No – both just account for a portion of spending and, since the method for counting was changed slightly this quarter to make it easier for recipients, the two numbers are pretty much apples and oranges.   The good news is that we already know the overall estimated job impact of the Recovery Act.  The Council of Economic Advisers recently released analysis that found the Recovery Act is already responsible for about 2 million jobs and the independent, non-partisan Congressional Budget Office agrees, putting the number at as many as 2.4 million jobs. 

So what exactly does the roughly 600,000 jobs number tell us?  Well, that small portion of Recovery spending recipients say yielded about 600,000 jobs funded is right in line with our goal to create or save 3.5 million jobs through the Recovery Act by the end of 2010.   That’s good news for the millions of Americans across the country that have or will bring home a paycheck thanks to the Recovery Act.

Ed DeSeve is Special Advisor to the President

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