Revised stimulus job tally due today

By Brett J. Blackledge and Matt Apuzzo
Associated Press / October 30, 2009

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WASHINGTON - The White House promised yesterday that new figures being released today will be a more accurate measure of progress in President Obama’s economic recovery plan, while defending an earlier, faulty count that overstated by thousands the jobs created or saved so far.

Ed DeSeve, serving as Obama’s stimulus overseer, said the administration has been working for weeks to correct mistakes in early counts that identified more than 30,000 jobs saved or created through the $787 billion stimulus plan. He said the new report should correct many mistakes found in the earlier count by the Associated Press - a count he had criticized as misleading in a midnight press release from the White House.

“I think you’ll see a pretty good degree of accuracy,’’ DeSeve said in an interview.

Robert Gibbs, White House spokesman, also downplayed errors in job counts identified by the AP’s review, telling reporters, “We’re talking about 4,000, or a 5,000 error.’’

The AP reviewed a sample of federal contracts, not all 9,000 reported to date, and discovered errors in 1 in 6 jobs credited to the stimulus program - or nearly 5,000 of the 30,000 jobs claimed so far. Even in its limited review, the AP found job counts that were more than 10 times the actual number of paid positions; jobs credited to the stimulus program that were counted twice and sometimes more than four times; and other jobs that were credited to stimulus spending when not one job was produced.

For example, some recipients of stimulus money used the cash to give existing employees pay raises but reported saving dozens of jobs with the money, including one Florida day care that claimed 129 jobs were saved.

A Texas contractor whose business kept 22 employees to handle stimulus contracts saw its job count inflated to 88 because the same workers were counted four times. The water department in Palm Beach County, Fla., hired 57 meter readers, customer service representatives, and other positions to handle two water projects. But the total job count was incorrectly doubled to 114.

Those errors were included in a progress report on the stimulus released two weeks ago that featured numerous mistakes, including a Colorado business’s claim that its stimulus contract created more than 4,200 jobs. In fact, the count was under 1,000.

Some businesses actually undercounted jobs funded with stimulus money, but by far the most reporting errors inflated the number of jobs credited to the stimulus.