Stimulus recipients report high job creation during first quarter

Direct recipients of Recovery Act contracts, grants and loans reported using the funds to create more than 680,000 jobs during the first three months of 2010, the highest quarterly total since the stimulus was enacted last year, according to new data.

More than 179,000 prime and subrecipients filed spending reports last quarter -- also a new high -- covering $29 billion in awarded Recovery funds. Recipients actually have received, however, only $8 billion of the funds, figures show.

The new data, posted on on Friday, generally followed earlier trends, with most of the spending and job creation coming as a result of grants for projects that are not yet 50 percent completed.

Stimulus recipients reported that job creation has gone up considerably in the past several months, from just under 600,000 jobs in the final quarter of 2009 to 682,779 in the first quarter of 2010, which ended on March 31.

The most recent figures do not include state spending reports from Rhode Island, which was granted an extension due to extensive flooding in the state. The data also does not include reports from indirect or induced recipients of stimulus money, and does not track funds disbursed through tax cuts, state aid or unemployment benefits.

"These reports, which provide a snapshot of just a portion of the job impact in the first quarter of this year, are yet another indication that the Recovery Act is a driving force behind the continued economic growth we are seeing and remains on track to support 3.5 million jobs overall by the end of 2010," Vice President Joe Biden said in a statement.

More than 640,000 of the jobs were attributed to grants, compared to fewer than 40,000 for contracts and 2,500 for federal loans. Grants to states from the Education Department funded nearly 470,000 jobs, the highest among all federal agencies. The second highest agency, the Health and Human Services Department, was responsible for less than 45,000 jobs.

As in previous quarters, California led the nation with more than 70,000 stimulus jobs last quarter, followed by Illinois, Texas, New York and Florida. Michigan, which has the nation's unemployment rate at 15.3 percent, ranked 14th in jobs funded.

The reports encompass jobs funded by state, local and corporate recipients of stimulus funds, but do not necessarily indicate that the positions were new or in danger of being lost. Last December, the Obama administration dropped its "saved or created" jobs formula, which skeptics suggested was subjective and impossible to verify.

Critics pounced on the effect of the stimulus on job creation, even before the new latest batch of data was released.

On Thursday, Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, released a report concluding that most of the jobs the Recovery Act funded are in the public sector and the stimulus had failed to blunt high unemployment rates.

"The American people reject the administration's claims on stimulus job creation and the flawed economic theory behind the assertion that massive deficit spending would fix our economy," Issa said.

Biden acknowledged some of the limitations of the data in his statement.

"This is a partial survey of Recovery Act activity based on real-time information coming directly from the recipients themselves, so we know the information is not perfect or complete," he said. "Work will continue on refining and improving the quality of the data in the weeks ahead."

Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board Chairman Earl Devaney said on Friday that the first quarter data appears to be in better shape than recent batches.

"We are finding that recipients are making far fewer errors in their data reports," Devaney said. "Recipients are becoming more accustomed to our reporting process and, as a result, the users of our website are getting a much more accurate picture of Recovery spending."

Of the more than 179,000 prime and subrecipients detailing their spending last quarter, nearly 147,000 had filed spending reports in one of the two previous reporting periods.

Since the stimulus measure was passed in February 2009, $205 billion in contracts, grants and loans has been awarded to recipients and $62 billion has been distributed.

Recipients and federal agencies will be allowed to review the first quarter spending reports and make changes. Updates to the data will be posted beginning on May 19 and every two weeks thereafter until June 16. The next reporting cycle begins on July 1.

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