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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Are there jobs to count?

How to count and classify the jobs created by the federal stimulus remains a nagging question for policymakers and watchdog groups as the money from the package continues to roll out. But still, much of the evidence, no matter the metric, points to lower than expected returns. In the Granite State:
New Hampshire has assigned at least half of its economic stimulus money to various projects or programs, but job totals remain at just 19 percent of initial White House projections.

The equivalent of 3,007 full-time jobs was created or saved with stimulus money through September, according to a report released last week by Orville “Bud” Fitch, director of the governor’s Office of Economic Stimulus.

That’s a big increase from the last quarterly report, when 796 jobs were linked to the program through June. But it remains unclear whether New Hampshire will reach the 16,000-job benchmark touted by the White House
And nationally:
As the government implements the $787 billion stimulus program, the effect of the spending and tax cuts are proving difficult to measure.

Part of the challenge is that assessments of the impact often rely on imagining how the economy would have fared if the stimulus money were spent differently, or not at all. Debates continue today about the effects of the 2001 stimulus program that sent rebate checks to taxpayers.

Complicating matters further: Many spending projects might end up being short-term jolts that fizzle out, raising questions about their effectiveness. The $3 billion cash for clunkers program, funded partially by stimulus money, pulled consumers into auto dealerships nationwide. Auto sales soared in August, then slumped in September. Similar concerns surround the $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers that ends next month. ...

As stimulus money slowly is disbursed, the continued troubles in the job market are renewing the fierce political battle about the giant program's performance. If the program is stimulating the economy, why is unemployment rising?
These WSJ graphs add more fuel to the skeptics' fire.

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