WASHINGTON — Nearly 650,000 jobs have been saved or created under President Barack Obama's economic stimulus plan, the government said Friday, and the White House declared the nation on track to meet the president's goal of 3.5 million by the end of next year.
New job numbers from businesses, contractors, state and local governments, non-profit groups and universities were released, showing 640,329 positions credited to the stimulus, according to the independent federal board monitoring the program's progress.
Teachers and other education employees represent the largest number of jobs in the report — about 325,000. With state budgets in crisis, federal aid helped governors avoid major cuts in education, which officials said spared many teachers and school workers from the unemployment line.
Vice President Joe Biden said the recovery plan "is operating as advertised" and on target to reach Obama's goal.
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"We're starting to make real progress on the road to recovery," Biden said.
Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell said "it's bewildering" to see the Obama administration's job-creation claims when 3 million jobs have been lost since Congress approved the program.
White House economic adviser Jared Bernstein said the figures show that, when adding in jobs linked to $288 billion in tax cuts, the stimulus has created or saved more than 1 million jobs.
The new data released late Friday represents 156,614 federal contracts, grants and loans awarded to more than 62,000 state and local governments, companies, school districts, universities, non-profits worth a total of $215 billion. The largest numbers of jobs were created or saved by state governments. California received nearly twice as many stimulus contracts, grants and loans — $26.9 billion — as any other state, followed by New York with $14.5 billion and Texas with $13 billion.
Among the largest non-government creators or saviors of jobs were construction company Shelco Inc. of Raleigh, N.C., with 836 jobs; and nuclear-waste cleanup firm Savannah River Nuclear Solutions LLC of Aiken, S.C., with 800 jobs.
Government recovery plans — everything from the $787 billion stimulus to tax credits for buying new homes to government deals on new cars — are credited with helping the economy grow again after a long and deep recession.
But the job market has yet to show signs of recovery, putting pressure on the White House to show that the stimulus was worth its hefty price. The economy has shed millions of jobs since Obama signed the stimulus in February, giving Republicans ammunition to say the government is spending too much for too little effect.
The White House said the latest report bolstered its case that the recession would have been far worse without the stimulus — a package of government spending, tax cuts, state aide and social programs.
The numbers released Friday have limitations, since calculating "jobs saved" will always produce an inexact estimate, and collecting data from so many sources is certain to produce errors.
Bernstein said there's not a huge distinction between jobs "saved" and jobs "created" by the stimulus money. Either way, he said, "it's an unemployed person avoided."
The data released represent the most extensive effort by any administration to calculate the effect of a spending program in real time.
The White House promised the data would be far more reliable than the first batch of numbers, on federal contracts, which the administration initially embraced, then branded a "test run" after thousands of errors were discovered. Many errors in that initial batch were reported by The Associated Press this week.
Teletech Government Solutions of Englewood, Colo., which staffed call centers for the digital TV transition, was among the largest non-government job creators. The AP's review found the company previously had claimed more than 4,200 jobs but most of those were temporary. It has corrected the job count to 635 to reflect the equivalent of full-time employees in the newly released data.
The new data indicated the government has made more than 17,000 such corrections to previously faulty records.
In Indiana, where officials reported saving 13,000 teaching jobs, Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels warned against putting too much stock in the job numbers.
"I personally wouldn't try to tell a taxpayer that this had any effect that I can see on the economy or let alone that there is some specific number of jobs attached to it," Daniels said earlier this month.
Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, said Friday "there's just no doubt" that the federal aide spared 6,100 government jobs, including teachers, police officers and firefighters, in his state.
"There would have been dramatic layoffs," he said.