Did Trump's Coronavirus Stimulus Save 51 Million Jobs? The Claim Relies on Shaky Math and Questionable Economics.

Even if it's true, taxpayers paid $58,000 for each saved job.


As Congress and the White House debate whether to spend another trillion or so dollars to help the U.S. economy survive the COVID-19 pandemic's economic slump, President Donald Trump's advisors are claiming that the first round of stimulus spending was a "wild success" that saved 51 million jobs.

Did it? As with the stimulus program enacted under President Barack Obama in the wake of the 2007-2008 financial crisis, the Trump administration's claim that a massive federal spending binge saved the economy is dubious at best.

Data released by the Treasury Department this week shows that the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) has poured more than $521 billion into American businesses since the coronavirus outbreak hit. The administration claims that more than 660,000 loans of at least $150,000 have been approved—due to the loan forgiveness aspect of the PPP program, many of those loans won't have to be paid back—and that 84 percent of small business jobs have been preserved, even as businesses have been battered by both the virus and mandatory shutdown orders in many places.

But there are at least three reasons to be skeptical of those claims.

First, the math is….interesting. A Reuters' review of the data found that 827 companies reported saving more than 400 jobs each despite receiving loans of less than $150,000. In those cases, it's possible that the PPP loans allowed employers to save more jobs than they otherwise might have, but counting all those jobs as being the result of the stimulus program is misleading at best.

As a condition of receiving a PPP loan, companies had to supply the Small Business Administration with information about how many jobs were saved. But that data hasn't been audited at all, and there are indications that some of it may have been "fudged" by the businesses that got loans, Reuters reports. For example, a large number of recipients seem to have reported saving exactly 50 jobs.

Second, even if you take the 51 million number at face value, that doesn't accurately demonstrate how many jobs were "saved" by the stimulus program. Some of those jobs would have been saved—or would have returned—absent any government spending, says Don Boudreaux, an economist at George Mason University.

Companies that could've taken out private loans likely didn't because government aid was offered instead. Similarly, businesses that could have dipped into their own savings to stay afloat chose government cash instead.

"It's certainly the case that whatever is the accurate number of jobs credited as saved by this loan program, a significant portion of these jobs would have instead been saved by market forces," Boudreaux says.

Third, members of Congress and the public should ask whether those jobs have really been saved, or if the PPP program has merely—to borrow a phrase from another aspect of the coronavirus response—flattened the curve of job losses?

In other words, the PPP program may have allowed businesses to keep more employees on their payrolls during the first few months of the pandemic, only to see layoffs occur as government aid expires, or as it becomes more apparent that the numbers provided by loan recipients were exaggerated. That's why some economists argue that unemployment is actually much worse than the (already quite bad!) national rate of 11 percent.

Even if the stimulus did in fact save each and every one of those 51 million jobs, that works out to more than $58,000 in federal spending for each job saved. And since 51 million is almost certainly an overly rosy estimation—and because more spending may yet be on the way—the reality is that taxpayers probably paid a higher price.

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    I advise the remaining Trump cultists to jump ship now while you can still deny that you knowingly supported a traitor.

    1. “former intelligence officials who served in the Trump administration told Just Security.”

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  3. Taxpayers paid nothing yet. They will pay big time if old man Biden gets elected.

    This so called pandemic will look like the golden days if the far left gets its way. You ain’t seen nothing yet how bad it can get.

    1. A stimulus is good when a Republican does it!

      1. So you’re saying you finally figured out why your boyfriend left you.

  4. He’s campaigning on saving jobs like it’s an election year.

    Where’s the outrage?!

    1. Has an elected official EVER not claimed to have saved or created jobs?

  5. Even if it’s true, taxpayers paid $58,000 for each saved job.

    Median household income (2019) – $63,688.
    That’s $5688 in the black, times 51 million! Profit, baby!!!!

    1. Is the median household paying a 92% income tax rate?

      1. I’m in Jersey. Se yes.

        1. CDC says 2 in every 1 person in Jersey goes toes up because covid please relocate

  6. Plenty of companies threatening layoffs once they can no longer suckle the PPP teat.

  7. Did Trump’s Coronavirus Stimulus Save 51 Million Jobs?

    “Oh, very well. ‘Saved or created’, then.”

  8. The more important question we should be asking is how many Mexican auto worker jobs he saved with NAFTA 2!

    1. Saved? He exported our minimum wage laws and gave them all a raise!

  9. “Shaky Math and Questionable Economics.”

    Must’ve come from the Commerce Department.
    You can’t get more shaky or questionable than a useless and expensive bureaucracy like the CD.

    1. CDC response, “Hold my beer”.

  10. Every single aspect of covid-19 has relied on shaky math and questionable economics.

  11. It was not “Trump’s stimulus,” all he did was sign it. He had no role in forming the legislation. The true credit belongs with the House and Senate leadership.

    1. Actually Steven Mnuchin was in direct negotiations over the bill. So the Trump admin did play a role in crafting the legislation.

      From NYT:
      Hours after Democrats voted to block action on the plan until they secured concessions and the Senate dissolved into partisan sniping, Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the minority leader, and Steven Mnuchin, the Treasury secretary, signaled that their private negotiations had yielded important breakthroughs that could clear the way for enactment of the plan within days.

      1. Then give Mnuchin credit also. Trump himself had almost no role.

  12. Considering that the Democrats wanted to spend more money, and spend it less on preserving jobs, why the pointed attack on Trump?

    Context matters.

  13. “But there are at least three reasons to be skeptical of those claims.”

    1. They come from the government.
    2. They come from the government.
    3. They come from the government.

    1. When bullshit stats like this come out, most people ignore them because they’re pretty meaningless, but scores of wonks and pundits pore over them, double checking everything. Then they release their findings and no one cares. Good job. Well done.

  14. First, the math is….interesting. A Reuters’ review of the data found that 827 companies reported saving more than 400 jobs each despite receiving loans of less than $150,000. In those cases, it’s possible that the PPP loans allowed employers to save more jobs than they otherwise might have, but counting all those jobs as being the result of the stimulus program is misleading at best.

    Company is stretched to the hilt, Already canned all the fat, nothing to spare, every remaining employee is vital, and the loss of just a couple would devastate them, force them into bankruptcy, and lay off all but a few to mothball the mess.

    Therefore that $150,000 might well have saved every single job.

    Yeah, I kinda doubt it. But it could be.

    1. If that company was really that close to the edge, they would have been smarter to close up and sell.

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  17. Politicians would take credit for the Sun rising if they thought they could get away with it. (In fact, I think they actually did take credit for this long ago.) It’s become an ingrained reflex by now.

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