Teachers appear to have benefited most from the effort to save jobs with the $787 billion recovery package, which sent
billions of dollars to states that were on the verge of ordering heavy layoffs in education.
The national data
on the impact of the federal stimulus plan won’t be available until later this month. But based on preliminary information
obtained by The Associated Press from a handful of states, the stimulus spared tens of thousands of teachers from losing their
Construction companies also are expected to report strong job numbers thanks to billions of dollars in highway
State officials around the U.S. worked to meet a Saturday reporting deadline as part of the most ambitious
effort to calculate in real time the effect of the government spending program. From 11 jobs repaving a road in Caldwell,
Texas, to one job at Utah food banks, to two forensic scientist positions in North Dakota, states were required to say exactly
what became of billions in government aid.
In California, the stimulus was credited with saving or creating 62,000
jobs in public schools and state universities. Utah reported saving about 2,600 teaching jobs. In both states, education jobs
represented about two-thirds of the total stimulus job number. Missouri reported more than 8,500 school jobs, Minnesota more
than 5,900. In Michigan, where officials said 19,500 jobs have been saved or created, three out of four were in education.
"They’re going to be the biggest driver of jobs from the state side," said Chris Whatley, who tracks stimulus
programs for the Council of State Governments.
Figures for construction companies will vary because some states
have spent that money faster than others. Unlike construction jobs, which require bidding and contracting, teaching jobs were
relatively quick to save once billions of dollars in aid arrived from Washington.
"This early data confirms
that the Recovery Act is working across the country to keep tens of thousands of teachers in the classroom and construction
workers on the job during these tough economic times," said Elizabeth Oxhorn, a spokeswoman for the White House recovery
Job estimates have become political chips in the debate on whether the stimulus was worth its hefty price
tag, particularly since many of the jobs created are temporary contract positions. Since the president signed the bill in
February, millions of jobs have been lost and unemployment has climbed higher than White House aides predicted.
Obama administration, bolstered by some economists and anecdotal evidence, has said things would have been far worse without
the stimulus. The White House says more than 1 million jobs have been saved or created so far, a figure that is so murky it
can never be verified. That’s because the White House estimate is based on economic models that try to calculate the effect
of tax cuts and the ripple effect of government spending.
The numbers being collected by contractors and states
are expected to provide a much more accurate count of workers employed by stimulus money. The job count will not tally jobs
created by $288 billion in tax cuts or attempt to quantify the ripple effect of stimulus spending.
had little information to make public. In some states, government agencies and contractors reported their data separately
and governors were still getting a handle on what the job picture looked like. In other states, officials were still reviewing
the data for errors.
"I don’t want to give you data and have it change as it gets corrected," said Tom
Evslin, whom Gov. Jim Douglas appointed as Vermont’s top recovery officer. Evslin said before the public could see the data,
state lawmakers would receive a briefing Thursday.
Other states that refused to make information public feared
getting ahead of the release in Washington.
"We are still awaiting word from the federal government to see
if this is data we ought to be releasing," said Tasya Peterson, spokeswoman for Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s recovery office.
States were told to keep their counting simple: A job means a full-time, full-year position. So a 40-hour-a-week summer
job will be counted as one-fourth of a job. A part-time researcher who works all year is half a job. And the full-time construction
engineer who works all year is one job.
The Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, the independent body
set up by Congress to monitor recovery act spending, will release job data in two batches. On Thursday, the board will release
data on direct spending from federal agencies. That will include jobs such as repairing military bases and improving national
Later this month, the board will release grant data, which will include jobs such as construction workers
hired to repair local highways using federal money.
Officials have said the unprecedented accounting could become
standard for government programs in the future, and this week’s data release will offer the first indication of how it’s working.