Government Spending

They're Not Necessarily Jobs, and They Weren't Necessarily Created or Saved, but We Gave These Guys Money, and They Gave Us Some Numbers


Instead of trumpeting the latest job numbers from recipents of money allocated by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the White House at least had the decency to bury them in a Saturday-night blog post and a brief statement by Vice President Joe Biden. There are good reasons to be embarrassed. As The New York Times notes, the Obama administration has abandoned the attempt to count the number of jobs "created or saved" by the stimulus money—i.e., jobs that would not exist but for the special funds from Washington. Not surprisingly, figuring that out proved to be a headache for grant recipients, who were essentially asked to compare the current situation with a parallel universe in which Congress never passed the Recovery Act. Instead they are now officially asked to do what many (or most) of them probably were doing anyway: count the jobs "funded" by stimulus money:

In the final quarter of 2009, the administration no longer asked recipients whether all of those jobs were actually created or saved by the stimulus money or whether some of those jobs might have existed without the stimulus money.

Instead, it now simply counts all existing jobs paid for with stimulus money as saved jobs, whether or not they would have been lost without the money.

So school districts (the main source of the jobs that were formerly described as "created or saved") can simply divide their federal money by the quarterly compensation for teachers and report the result as jobs "funded" by the Recovery Act, even if no teachers would have been laid off in the absence of the money. If a public housing authority uses stimulus money to replace windows in one of its apartment complexes, and the project involves three guys from Ace Windows and Doors working full-time for a month, that counts as a job for that quarter, even if all of the guys would have been employed without this particular contract—and even if the housing authority would have replaced the windows without the federal grant. It also sounds like it is now officially OK to count raises for existing employees as jobs, as a number of recipents erroneously did last time around.

It's worth emphasizing that each of these "jobs" is actually a "full-time equivalent" for the quarter, meaning that it amounts to no more than a three-month gig for one individual and may just be an amalgamation of hours worked by various people. If a federally funded project is said to involve an extra hour of work for each of 520 people, that counts as a stimulus job. And now it counts as a stimulus job even if all of those people would have been fully employed and earned the same amount of money without the federal grant.

The White House says "the method for counting was changed slightly this quarter to make it easier for recipients" and therefore cautions against comparing the new numbers to earlier ones. But the change is more than slight. Instead of the increasingly reliable data we were promised as recipients became more adept at reporting and the administration strove to weed out errors such as phantom congressional districts and improbably stimulating work boots, we will get data that by design cannot be used to measure jobs produced by the stimulus, which was the whole point of the exercise. Biden nevertheless claims:

The recipients reporting on this $54 billion portion of the Recovery Act…tell us they funded about 600,000 workers last quarter with Recovery dollars. These reports, which provide a snapshot of the impact of a small portion of funds, are yet another indication that the Recovery Act is on track to create or save 3.5 million jobs by the end of 2010.

Translation: This meaningless, unverifiable number can be used to validate another meaningless, unverifiable number.

Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie mentioned the shift in job counting methodology in a recent piece offering unsolicited advice to President Obama. I discussed "the fuzzy math and goofy logic of government-goosed employment" after the last set of job numbers was released.


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  1. Look, the Marines are looking for an AV guy…..alist/1749

    I think it’s a trap…

  2. The recipients reporting on this $54 billion portion of the Recovery Act…tell us they funded about 600,000 workers last quarter with Recovery dollars.

    Biden went on to say that an additional 800,000 workers will be unemployed in the future as companies go out of business or are forced to lay off staff in order to pay the tax increases necessary to fund the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

    1. Followed by his interviewer correcting him by turning it into an 800,000 increase in labor.

  3. Just wait until the current administration decides that the unemployment numbers they inherited from the Bush administration were low as in “10% unemployment is only half what it was when we entered office.”

  4. “Translation: This meaningless, unverifiable number can be used to validate another meaningless, unverifiable number.”

    Hey, it worked for the guy at West Anglia and the IPCC.

    1. but a highly accurate meaningless and unverifiable number.

  5. Having a job is just a state of mind, folks.

    1. Having a job is the worst form of racism.

      1. Having a job is so old fashioned.

  6. At a certain income level, theft is magically no longer theft. I wonder how poor someone has to be for murder to stop being murder…

    1. Not sure income is taken into account as long as your intentions are in the right place. See Bill Ayers and Bernadine van Dohrn for a detailed explaination of this theory.

      1. or how to make a bomb…

        1. Might want to check elsewhere. See SoHo, SDS, and Ft. Dix, NJ.

          Oh, I see what you did there. Pretty slick.

    2. This idiotic argument gets trotted out over and over. Thing is, when you look at some of these “filthy rich” people’s tax returns, it’s pretty obvious that they’re already paying a ton of tax. Like, their withholding is vastly more than my pitiful salary. I don’t care how much you make, it can’t feel good to see more than a third of your income disappear.

      1. They can pay more. Ask Ben Stein. You really don’t need to ask, he will tell you without prompting.

      2. In an odd coincidence, my federal income tax (not counting FICA and MA) is just under the median family income for the US.

        Just sayin’, is all.

        1. Braggart pretending you are patriotic. Trying to get a job with Biden?

      3. Man, if all I’d been paying was a third (I include FICA, property tax, state tax, sales, etc), I’d be happy as a clam. Roll up all taxes and I’m way over 1/2.

    3. Perhaps a better title would be, “I’m a Spiteful Little Man Who Should Have Listened to his Mother and Gone Into a More Lucrative Field.”

    4. Yeah I saw that today and almost puked. What a shitbag Gross is. The little bastard has never been anything but a spoiled college kid and journalist (which is the same thing). But he is going to tell us how anyone making more money than him needs to give up what is theirs. Since he has never done an honest day’s work in his life, I guess he figures they haven’t either.

      1. What’s so sickening is that he doesn’t even attempt to make a case for heavy progressive taxation. When the “rich” label is attached, everything is automatically fair game. It’s like screaming “witch” in The Middle Ages.

        1. Pretty much. Journalists have no idea how the world works. You don’t just get a 250K a year job. It takes years of work. And when you get one, they don’t just give you the money. The money a job pays, the more bullshit it comes with. Gross thinks that people who make that kind of money do so out of luck or kindness of others I guess.

          1. “You don’t just get a 250K a year job. It takes years of work.”

            True, unless you have a Senator for a husband.

        2. “She turned me into a newt!”

          1. You don’t look like a newt.

            1. He got better.

        3. Ten bucks says he’s a trust fund baby, specifically one of the little cunts who rebels against his parents by being a nasty and fairly stupid piece of leftist work who doesn’t have to try all that hard, since he’s never had to in the first place.

          That’s usually when you see displayed such a spectacular failure at grasping how the world works, since you instead view it as the whiny little shit you are, stomping your feet and demanding changes from everyone else, right now.

          Oh, and one who doesn’t have to declare the fund’s value as income, which is just a massive coincidence, because well, it’s not *your* money that’s the problem.

          1. I bet he is. There was an article I saw a few months ago. I forget where. But it was about all of these leftist trust fund babies in Manhatten who had decided after they had had children that the inheritence tax wasn’t such a good deal and it was okay to dodge it. One of them actually said something to the effect of “we need an inheritence tax, but when it comes to my children I am going to do what is right by them”.

            If letting wealth pass to the children of the generation who earned it, maybe we need a 100% trust fund tax.

            1. If letting wealth pass to the children of the generation who earned it produces people like this, maybe we need a 100% trust fund tax.

    5. What happens when $1000 buys a loaf of bread?

      1. Then the future I write about in my fiction has arrived.

        1. I withdraw the statement… Actually the US government has managed to roll back taxes, although it hasn’t quite tracked inflation. (Used to be only the top 10% were taxed). Well at least it’s fairer.

          1. In my twisted vision of the future, the feds have a flat tax on income with no deductions. The hyperinflation gets the tip for a dancer up to $1,000 but the tip for a pizza delivery, or smoking in a cab (in Virginia) is only $100. Public smoking and prostitution tickets in DC pretty much track parking violation fines.

      2. Then I’ll only be able to afford to buy a loaf of bread 10x a year (and have absolutely no money for anything else) In which case, maybe I should just donate my body to the science of cannibalism… but I’ll be awfully skinny by then. LOL

  7. Good grief, how the hell hard is it to hire a bunch of guys to go around to do an accurate count of where the stimulus money is going? Or make it a permanent position or five in each municipality if that would be easier on the recipients. Common sense.

    Sometimes I think bureaucratic decisionmaking is counterintuitive.

    1. You could use the stimulus money to pay all the unemployed to track where all the stimulus money is going. Brilliant!

      You should send them a memo.

      1. if you could write…

    2. Why would you assume there was any intention of an accurate accounting? When the entire purpose is to reward cronies and allies, you want nothing to do with accuracy.

      1. It’s graft, and nothing more.

    3. The phrase “bureaucratic decisionmaking” is counterintuitive.

  8. On the bright side, the new method removes the BS from the equation; by dropping the pretense that it is saving or creating anything, the government is indirectly acknowledging it is really just doing what it always does; that is, redistributing taxpayer money. I’m hoping (but not expecting) this change will help illustrate to some of the wiser stimulus supporters the problem(s) with government interference in the economy.

  9. Who needs reality, just trust in the multiplier effect. Someone with fancy degrees and equations with numbers and shit said so. It might not make any sense, or reflect anything observable, but that doesn’t matter once our children learn about how Obama saved us from the Great Recession in their history books.

  10. Guess what folks? The real job situation was even worse than what we were led to believe. We’re about to get the biggest downward employment revision in 18 years.

      1. Obama said so.

  11. so if I wipe my ass with toilet paper from an Army/Navy surplus store, that counts a job created or saved?

    1. You get a bonus job if someone is paid to do the wiping for you

    2. I’ve wiped my ass with a lot of military TP since the mid-80s, most recently finishing a bit of contracting work in a third world shit hole.

      You do NOT want to do this. Trust me. All the money we give the military for fancy combat systems and stuff? They get the *worst* toilet paper in the world. You’d be better of wiping your ass with the NY Times–it’s softer, holds together better under load, and, well, at least you’d get some use out of it that way.

      Hmmm…how often do they print a picture of Obama…

      1. We’ll soon be using $20 bills if we keep heading down this path.

  12. Reminds me of football, when they bring out the chains to measure for a first down. Taking an accurate measurement between two almost completely arbitrary points. WHY??!?!?

    1. That’s not how it works. The chain is 10 yards long. The start point is set by the end of the previous first down. The chain crosses yard lines which are marked on the field. When a ball spot is checked for a new first down, the ref grabs the chain at the nearest yard marker and runs to the location of the ball, where he replaces the chain at the yard marker he picked it up from. The chain is stretched backwards, then forwards to the ball. If the ball is past the end post, new first down. If not, next play.

      1. So, on first and ten, a fifteen yard pass play gets a first down. After the spot, of course what takes place is that the chains are brought to the spot and the next ten yards are set EXACTLY from that spot.

        What? They eyeball it from the sidelines?


  13. Sounds like the old Communism Fallacy;
    “…the Party says there is full employment, but no one has a job…”

  14. “brief statement by Vice President Joe Biden”

    Wait, isn’t this an oxymoron?

    1. I think your keyboard added “oxy” to what you wanted to write.

      1. +1

  15. omitted from the calculation, of course, is the number of jobs lost because higher taxes (and the resulting reduced economic activity) forced employers to cut their payrolls

    1. You are not playing the game right. In Obamaball, higher taxes mean more jobs. Employers are just not hiring people because they want to increase profits, so if we take their profits away they will hire more people. See how simple?

      Now, for advanced Obamaball, we need to offer employers $2,000 per year off of their taces so that they will hire more people @ $75,000 per year to sweep floors at the local mill or stable (whatever those people do).

      The more advanced you get the easier it is.

  16. If a federally funded project is said to involve an extra hour of work for each of 520 people, that counts as a stimulus job.

    I get it!

    This very thread is a stimulus job.

  17. Interesting.

    So what happens then, after stimulus money is used up?

    1. Print more.

      What part of Obamaball are you not getting?

    2. There’s always more where that came from.

  18. So, am I reading those numbers right? $54 billion, for 600,000 jobs, for one quarter? Annualized, that’s $360,000 per year per job. PLEASE tell me my arithmetic is wrong. I’m begging you.

    1. Okay, I won’t tell you. If you used Obamamath it would be 54 trillion jobs and we really have a labor shortage but a bad accounting sistem was inherited from the Bush administration. As soon as everything catches up all will be well.

    2. Here in Wisconsin we count every stimulus job 3x so, account for the triplizing effect and recalculate.

  19. Okay, your arithmetic is wrong. Feel better?

    After all, making folks feel better is what makes this country president great!

  20. Wow, all high paying jobs: $90,000 per quarter per job, i.e. $360,000 per year.

    Imagine how much more taxes the Fed is getting from soaking the rich, those who earn over $200,000 a year.

    Absolutely genius.

  21. I don’t know about today, but a few years ago, the GSA catalog had two grades of TP, one listed for “Office workers” the other general purpose, meaning military and the guys who get hands dirty on military equipment. Discrimination at the most basic level.

  22. $54 Billion for 600,000 jobs. My math says $90,000 per job. While we can argue big government and unintended consequences all day, does anyone else think that the value we are getting for the money is pretty low?

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