Farewell “Saved or Created”: Obama Administration Changes the Counting of Stimulus Jobs*

The Obama administration has taken some heat and mockery for using the nebulous and non-economic term of jobs being “saved or created” by the $787 billion stimulus program.

So it’s gotten rid of it.

In a little-noticed December 18, 2009 memo from Office of Management and Budget director Peter Orszag the Obama administration is changing the way stimulus jobs are counted.

The memo, first noted by ProPublica , says that those receiving stimulus funds no longer have to say whether a job has been saved or created.

“Instead, recipients will more easily and objectively report on jobs funded with Recovery Act dollars,” Orszag wrote.

In other words, if the project is being funded with stimulus dollars – even if the person worked at that company or organization before and will work the same place afterwards – that’s a stimulus job.

This change has not yet hit the Recovery.gov website, which lists 640,329 “Jobs Created/Saved as Reported by Recipients.”

Ed Pound, the spokesman for the Recovery Board -- which is charge of Recovery.gov -- tells ABC News “since OMB is not going to use ‘jobs created or jobs saved’ any more, we’re not going to use it either.” He said Recovery.gov will probably use something more like “jobs reported by recipients where Recovery funds were expended.”

Orszag’s memo also indicates the reporting of jobs will be less frequent; “recipients will now report job estimates on a quarterly, rather than cumulative, basis.”

OMB spokesman Tom Gavin said that after talking to funding recipients, good government groups, Democratic and Republican members of Congress and the Government Accountability Office, the administration decided to change its counting mechanism.

In its November report, titled “Recipient Reported Jobs Data Provide Some Insight into Use of Recovery Act Funding, but Data Quality and Reporting Issues Need Attention,” GAO specifically made recommendations as to how to change the counting procedures, saying the Obama administration should “consider being more explicit that ‘jobs created or retained’ are to be reported as hours worked and paid for with Recovery Act funds.”

“Instead of putting the GAO report on a shelf as is typically done we took the recommendations to heart,” Gavin told ABC News. “The changes are designed to make the definitions clearer, to simplify the process, and to increase the accuracy of the data that’s reported.”

But Rep. Darrell Issa of California, the top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote to the chair of the Recovery Act Transparency and Accountability Board Earl Devaney saying that “the new guidance counts every jobs that is funded using stimulus money – even if it existed before the Recovery Act, and was not in any danger of being eliminated – as ‘created or saved.’ This definition ignores the plain meanings of the words ‘created’ and ‘saved’ and makes Recovery.gov’s ‘ ‘JOBS CREATED/SAVED’ label a falsehood, further eroding the confidence of the American people in their government.”

“It’s funny,” Gavin says. “A lot of the people who are being critical of this effort to simplify the process are the same people who three months ago were complaining the process was too complex.”


* This post was updated with the response from the Recovery Board.

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