Stimulus saved or created 650,000 jobs, White House claims

But the jobs market remains weak despite the stimulus, and may remain so for some time, officials say.

By , Staff writer

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    In this Sept. 14 file photo, road workers begin construction along California interstate 215 north in San Bernadino County. The White House said Friday that new job numbers will show the president's economic stimulus plan has directly created or saved about 650,000 jobs.
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First, the good news: The stimulus package passed by Congress in February so far has saved or created 650,000 jobs, according to the White House.

Now, the bad news: the employment market remains weak, say administration officials. That means that unemployment could remain near 10 percent deep into 2010, despite the effects of stimulus spending.

“Adding enough jobs to fill in the huge hole caused by unemployment will take time,” said Christina Romer, chair of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisors (CEA), at a Christian Science Monitor event Oct. 29.

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The White House was in full promotional mode Friday pushing the jobs-saved-or-created figures. The administration was to post more information on the government’s recovery.gov website later in the day.

The administration has been pressured by critics to document progress towards Mr. Obama’s goal of saving or creating 3.5 million jobs by the end of 2010. The new data will be the most detailed look yet at how the stimulus package is affecting employment.

Teachers and other public employees are expected to be a major category of the new-or-saved job figures. Federal aid to states has helped avert thousands of layoffs that might otherwise have occurred.

Only about half the $787 billion in stimulus money has so far been obligated by the federal government, according to Ms. Romer.

Jobs linked to stimulus cash are great, but the economy as a whole, including the private sector, needs to grow if unemployment is to go down, said the CEA chief.

And 2 to 2.5 percent annual growth in gross domestic product (GDP), which most economic forecasters are predicting for the next year, may not be enough.

“Even 3 percent growth does not put a lot of downward pressure on the unemployment rate,” said Romer Thursday. GDP grew by 3.5 percent in the third quarter.

Until GDP starts going up at a 4 to 5 percent annual rate, unemployment might linger at high levels, she said.

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