WASHINGTON – The White House is promising that new figures being released Friday will be a more accurate showing of progress in President Barack Obama's economic recovery plan. It aggressively defended an earlier, faulty count that overstated by thousands the jobs created or saved so far.
Ed DeSeve, serving as Obama's stimulus overseer, said the administration has been working for weeks to correct mistakes in early counts that identified more than 30,000 jobs paid for with stimulus money. He said a new stimulus report Friday should correct many mistakes an Associated Press review found that showed the earlier report overstated thousands of stimulus jobs.
"I think you'll see a pretty good degree of accuracy," DeSeve said in an interview.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs downplayed errors in job counts identified by the AP's review, telling reporters, "We're talking about 4,000, or a 5,000 error."
The AP reviewed a sample of federal contracts, not all 9,000 reported to date, and discovered errors in one in six jobs credited to the $787 billion stimulus program — or 5,000 of the 30,000 jobs claimed so far.
Even in its limited review, the AP found job counts that were more than 10 times as high as the actual number of paid positions; jobs credited to the stimulus program that were counted two and sometimes more than four times; and other jobs that were credited to stimulus spending when none was produced.
• Some recipients of stimulus money used the cash to give existing employees pay raises, but each reported saving dozens of jobs with the money, including one Florida day care that claimed 129 jobs saved.
• A Texas contractor whose business kept 22 employees to handle stimulus contracts saw its job count inflated to 88 because the same workers were counted four times.
• The water department in Palm Beach County, Fla., hired 57 meter readers, customer service representatives and other positions to handle two water projects. But their total job count was incorrectly doubled to 114.
Those errors were included in an early progress report on the stimulus released two weeks ago that featured numerous mistakes, including a Colorado business' claim that its stimulus contract created more than 4,200 jobs. TeleTech Government Solutions actually hired 4,231 temporary workers for its stimulus project, but most of them worked for five weeks or less and the others no more than five months, company president Mariano Tan said.
The short-term positions should have been reported as 635 full-time, 40-hour-a-week jobs under the government's method of calculating stimulus work, Tan said.
The AP's review sampled some of the contract data reported on the government's Web site, recovery.gov
, that serves as the official accounting of stimulus data. The review focused on the most obvious cases of jobs wrongly tied to the stimulus because of record duplications or misinterpretations of how the jobs should be counted. In some cases, businesses reported short-term projects with large job counts, which appeared inaccurate in the records. The AP contacted businesses to discuss their jobs reports and confirmed the errors.
Some businesses actually undercounted jobs funded with stimulus money, the AP's review shows, because they reported only new jobs created, not existing jobs saved. But by far the most reporting errors were found in the number of jobs credited to the stimulus.
Gibbs said that early data couldn't be reviewed as carefully as new data will be. "Three days after the data was received, it was required to be put on the Web site," he said.
The Colorado business' job count, along with many others, has been corrected, Gibbs said, and will be updated in Friday's report.
"We disputed, as the AP disputed, the report that came in that calculated a number of jobs but didn't accurately account, the way we account for, a full-time, yearlong employee as being a job," Gibbs said.
His comments during his daily meeting with reporters came hours after the White House issued a midnight press release complaining about the AP's review of jobs the government credits to stimulus spending.
DeSeve, who criticized the AP's review as misleading, said the administration is aware of problems with the early data. Agencies have been working with businesses that received the money to correct mistakes. Other errors discovered by the public also will be corrected, he said.
"As a result, whatever problems the early and partial data had, the full data to be posted on Friday will provide the American people with an accurate, detailed look at the early success of the Recovery Act," DeSeve said in a statement the White House issued just after midnight Thursday.