White House Unveils Stimulus Jobs Report

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Updated at 7:03 p.m. EDT

The White House put out a report card Friday claiming that stimulus spending has directly created or saved about 650,000 jobs.

Critics question how can anybody can claim success when unemployment is almost 10 percent, reports CBS News chief White House correspondent Chip Reid. But Vice President Biden said Friday that without the stimulus funds, unemployment would be even higher.

The Obama administration also said Friday it is on track to reach the president's goal of 3.5 million jobs by the end of next year.

"This is helping put us back on track," Biden said, though he acknowledged "we've still got a long way to go."

"We know more jobs are on the way … we're only about a third of the way through this marathon."

New job numbers from businesses, contractors, state and local governments, nonprofit groups and universities were released publicly Friday afternoon on Recovery.gov, the Web site of the independent panel overseeing stimulus spending. It showed 640,329 jobs created or saved directly through federal contracts.

When adding in jobs linked to $288 billion in tax cuts, Biden said, the stimulus plan has created or saved more than 1 million jobs.

Government recovery plans - everything from the $787 billion stimulus to tax credits for buying new homes to government deals on new cars - are credited with helping the economy grow again after a record four straight losing quarters.

But the job market has yet to show signs of recovery, putting pressure on the White House to show that the stimulus was worth its hefty price tag. The economy has shed millions of jobs since Obama signed the stimulus in February, giving Republicans ammunition to say the government is spending too much for too little effect.

The White House says the report bolsters its case that the economy would have been far worse without the stimulus - a package of government spending, tax cuts, state aide and social programs.

Friday's data will have its limitations, since calculating "jobs saved" will always produce an inexact estimate and collecting data from so many sources is certain to produce errors. But the number released Friday represents the most accurate head count of stimulus jobs to date, one that is more precise than previous estimates based on White House economic formulas.

And it represents the most extensive effort ever by any administration to calculate the effect of a spending program in real time.

"It's a great example of the unprecedented transparency, where the American taxpayer can point and click and see their taxes creating jobs," White House economic adviser Jared Bernstein said.

The claims of job creation were quickly criticized in Republican circles. Tony Fratto, a former Bush administration spokesman, called the reports a "useless exercise that completely misses the aims of an expensive stimulus bill," reports CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller.

Fratto's response, published on The Roosevelt Room, criticized the Obama administration as having "no clue" on the impact of stimulus spending on "net employment."

The White House promised the data would be far more reliable than the first batch of numbers, on federal contracts, which the administration initially embraced, then branded a "test run" after .

Teachers are expected to represent the largest number of jobs in the report. With state budgets in crisis, federal aid helped governors avoid major cuts in education, which officials said spared hundreds of thousands of teachers from the unemployment line.

In Indiana, where officials reported saving 13,000 teaching jobs, Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels warned against putting too much stock in the job numbers.

"I personally wouldn't try to tell a taxpayer that this had any effect that I can see on the economy or let alone that there is some specific number of jobs attached to it," Daniels said earlier this month.

Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat, said Friday "there's just no doubt" that the federal aide spared 6,100 government jobs, including teachers, police officers and firefighters, in his state.

"There would have been dramatic layoffs," he said.