How much stimulus money does it take to create one job? At the Department of Energy, the average price of a job created is $194,213. According to the agency’s own reports, as of May it had spent $1.9 billion in stimulus funds to create 10,018 jobs.
But don’t call them jobs created, or even jobs saved or funded. The department prefers the phrase “lives touched.” That terminology lets it count people who “supported” any project funded with stimulus dollars as well as individuals whose full-time employment was funded with stimulus money. Because the agency relies heavily on subcontractors, this approach gives the department’s job creation figures a big bump; of the 10,018 jobs it reports having created, just 5,655 went to full-time contractors.
That’s if you believe the count at all. According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released in July, the true impact of the Energy Department’s stimulus spending on job creation is “unclear.” The GAO called the department’s report “problematic,” “confusing,” and “potentially misleading.”
To calculate the number of lives touched, the department counted individuals who worked on a project for any length of time. That method, the GAO said, “implies that one person engaged in two hours of work per week is equivalent to one person engaged in 40 hours of work per week.” The department also boosted its number by counting anyone involved in manufacturing materials used by contractors, an estimate the GAO says “is difficult to verify.”