How do you measure success? When it comes to the economy, many use the job metric, which still lags well behind other factors.
Friday afternoon, that metric was given a real number: 640,329. That's how many jobs the administration contends were directly saved or created by the national economic stimulus from its inception in February through September 30th.
As mandated by Congress, an independent board tracked the money for just under half of the funds allocated in the Recovery Act for projects like highway repairs, construction, and education funding.
"The critics didn't think the recovery plan would help the economy grow," White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said, "but I think the critics -- if you put 50 cents in the newspaper machine and pull the arm, you'll see that our critics haven't been so right."
Some of those very critics say not that's good enough. "The President and his economic team promised the ‘stimulus’ would create jobs ‘immediately’ and unemployment would stay below eight percent," quipped House Minority Leader John Boehner (OH). "But America has lost more than three million jobs since then, and the unemployment rate is nearing double digits."
The administration says Friday's numbers show the stimulus is at least staunching the bleeding and doesn't even include the "hundreds of thousands" more jobs saved or created as an indirect consequence of money flowing to projects.
Vice President Biden extrapolated those numbers, noting that if you took the full amount spent on the very same projects into account, "I can say without...fear of being contradicted by any responsible source, that so far we have created over a million jobs."
Mr. Biden seemed to be hinting at an Associated Press report released Thursday that revealed an over-counting of jobs saved or created by the stimulus.
The report led to heavy criticism from conservatives. The Republican National Committee said early Friday that the Obama Administration "has been misleading the American people as these White House reports have been fraught with errors and the job estimates are questionable at best."
However, the government said those numbers were not generated by the White House. Rather, they were calculated by an independent board and only represented only a small fraction of data available at the time. The full accounting is what was released today, they said.
But what else do those numbers reveal? John Boehner says they show the government is getting more bloated, "After promising earlier this year that 90 percent of the ‘jobs created’ would be in the private sector, the White House's announcement today shows that the 'stimulus' has only grown the size of the government payroll."
So far, the White House has not enumerated the cost per job, though Robert Gibbs says the data shows the administration is on track to achieve its self-imposed goal of 3.5 million jobs saved or created by the stimulus by the end of 2010.
For the full jobs report, and a state by state breakdown, visit: www.recovery.gov.