Do Obama's Job Creation Numbers Add Up?



President Barack Obama has made it his goal to create or save hundreds of thousands of jobs during this economic downturn, and this week he said his administration is well on the way to doing it.

But, do his numbers add up? CBS News correspondent Wyatt Andrews offers a reality check.

It seems to be the presidents favorite number these days - those 150,000 jobs he says are clear numeric proof that his national stimulus plan is working.

It sounds like a claim the administration has actually counted up those jobs

Here's the reality. Those 150,000 jobs are a guess, based on a 16-page White House document, which uses what's called "macroeconomic methodology" to give the president a formula for the jobs that should be created, not a tally of jobs actually created.

"There's no way that an economist, no matter how good, can say, 'This stimulus package created this many jobs,'" said Maya MacGuineas, an economist and president of the non-partisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. "It's just a jump that you can't make with any certainty "

Then there's Mr. Obama and Vice President Joe Biden's claim that the stimulus has "already saved or created" a certain number of jobs - basically an assertion that in the 150,000 jobs, there are also jobs that have been saved, workers that have not laid off.

But the reality is you can't count layoffs that don't happen.

"It would be absolutely impossible to measure with any precision how many people have kept their jobs," MacGuineas said.

The president's top economic adviser readily agrees those 150,000 jobs come from an estimate. So why does the president present the figures as fact?

Because, she argues, the economy is recovering, and the estimate is based on history.

"When you have a tax cut like we've had, when you have the kind of spending changes like we've had - traditionally that's created a large number of jobs, so that's where we're getting that number," said Christina Romer, chair of Mr. Obama's Council of Economic Advisers.

Clearly the stimulus is creating jobs and preventing layoffs, but how many jobs can be traced to the stimulus will be part of the president's legacy. One day he might be proven right. Right now, that's an estimate.

  • Wyatt Andrews
    Wyatt Andrews

    Wyatt Andrews is a CBS News National Correspondent based in Washington D.C. He is responsible for tracking trends in politics, health care, energy, the environment and foreign affairs.