By Brett J. Blackledge and Matt Apuzzo
Washington — Future progress reports on President Barack Obama’s economic recovery plan will be more accurate, White House officials promised Thursday. The pledge came in the wake of a review that showed early reports claimed thousands more jobs created or saved than actually were.
The government’s first accounting of jobs tied to the $787 billion stimulus program claimed more than 30,000 positions paid for with recovery money. But that figure is overstated by least 5,000 jobs, or one in six, according to an Associated Press review of a sample of stimulus contracts.
The AP review found some counts were more than 10 times as high as the actual number of jobs; some jobs credited to the stimulus program were counted two and sometimes more than four times; and other jobs were credited to stimulus spending when none was produced.
* A company working with the Federal Communications Commission reported that stimulus money paid for 4,231 jobs, when about 1,000 were produced.
* A Georgia community college reported creating 280 jobs with recovery money, but none was created from stimulus spending.
* A Florida child care center said its stimulus money saved 129 jobs but used the money on raises for existing employees.
There’s no evidence the White House sought to inflate job numbers in the report. But administration officials seized on the 30,000 figure as evidence that the stimulus program was on its way toward fulfilling the president’s promise of creating or saving 3.5 million jobs by the end of next year.
The reporting problem could be magnified Friday when a much larger round of reports is expected to show hundreds of thousands of jobs repairing public housing, building schools, repaving highways and keeping teachers on local payrolls.
But the White House promises many problems will be corrected in Friday’s reports.
“I think you’ll see a pretty good degree of accuracy,” said Ed DeSeve, an Obama adviser helping to oversee the stimulus program.
DeSeve 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.
“If there’s an error that was made, let’s get it fixed,” DeSeve said.
Tom Gavin, a spokesman for the White House budget office, attributed the errors to officials as well as recipients having to conduct such reporting for the first time.
Here are some of the findings:
* Colorado-based Teletech Government Solutions on a $28.3 million contract with the Federal Communications Commission for creation of a call center, reported creating 4,231 jobs, although 3,000 of those workers were paid for five weeks or less.
“We all felt it was an appropriate way to represent the data at the time” and the reporting error has been corrected, said company president Mariano Tan.
* Barbara Moore, executive director of the Child Care Association of Brevard County in Cocoa, Fla., reported that the $98,669 she received in stimulus money saved 129 jobs at her center, though the cash was used to give her 129 employees a 3.9 percent cost-of-living raise. She said she needed to boost their salaries because some workers had left “because we had not been able to give them a raise in four years.”
* Officials at East Central Technical College in Douglas, Ga., said they now know they shouldn’t have claimed 280 stimulus jobs linked to more than $200,000 to buy trucks and trailers for commercial driving instruction, and a modular classroom and bathroom for a health education program.
“It was an error on someone’s part,” said Mike Light, spokesman for the Technical College System of Georgia. The 280 were not jobs, but the number of students who would benefit, he said.