Sizing Up The Stimulus: Where Are The Jobs?


Economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who did more than his share of number-crunching as the director of the Congressional Budget Office from 2003 to 2005, says that for his money the $840 billion stimulus package simply didn't deliver the big job creation bang promised by President Barack Obama.

"It is hard to throw three-quarters of a trillion dollars at the economy and not have some impact, but we didn't get our money’s worth," said Holtz-Eakin, a commissioner with the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission, which concluded that the crisis was the result of "human actions, inactions and misjudgments."

"We could have done better. It could have been better designed. We are going to find out years from now about all the waste in it. We know it had more than stimulus as part of its design. There was a lot of Obama domestic policy agenda in there in disguise. That was really mixing purposes and undercut the efficiency. And we got as a result what we got, which is a substandard recovery."

 

[Related: Five Tech Companies That Milked The Stimulus]

One sign of the failure of the stimulus: the high unemployment rate into 2010 even in the midst of astronomical government spending, said Veronique de Rugy, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, who testified before Congress on the effects of the stimulus. "They said without the stimulus unemployment would reach 8.8 percent," said de Rugy. "We did the stimulus and for over a year we stayed around 10 percent unemployment."

Holtz-Eakin and de Rugy are just two of a number of economists, industry executives and even government officials contesting estimates by President Obama and his administration that 3.5 million jobs would be "saved or created" in two years as a result of the stimulus.

The Council of Economic Advisers, an agency within the Executive Office of the president, supported the president's job numbers with an estimate that as of the first quarter of 2011, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) has "raised employment relative to what it otherwise would have been by between 2.4 [million] and 3.6 million" jobs.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, meanwhile, estimated that the ARRA legislation in the first quarter of 2011 raised employment to as many as 3.3 million jobs.

A six-month CRN investigation into specifically where ARRA funds were spent on technology projects aimed to determine how many jobs ARRA created. CRN spoke with with dozens of executives and examined countless government documents and found big U.S. jobs cuts from technology companies that were receiving funding and relatively modest job growth on specific awards reported to the federal government website responsible for transparency, Recovery.gov.

In a report on companies benefiting from the stimulus, the top five technology beneficiaries of the funding profiled by CRN received $745.82 million in ARRA awards and slashed their U.S. workforces collectively by an estimated 50,000 employees over the last four years.

As for the job creation from ARRA, CRN found that a review of a select $122.29 million in prime recipient funds received by the top five companies resulted in 709.5 jobs, according to Recovery.gov. That amounts to a cost of about $172,489 per job.

That contrasts with a May 2009 report from the Council of Economic Advisers that estimates approximately "$92,000 of spending to create one job year."

NEXT: CRN Investigates