20,000 MN jobs created/saved by stimulus so far. Really?

A new White House Council of Economic Advisers report estimates 20,100 Minnesota jobs saved or created so far from spending in the federal stimulus bill.

OK, where are they? It’s the question we keep asking and the hardest one to answer. The White House estimate is basically a best guess. Still, I’m looking at employment data and MPR reporting and I don’t see it.

On October 10, Minnesota officials will report to the feds on direct jobs created via stimulus spending (might be a couple weeks later before it’s made public). “We don’t have any estimates yet,” says a Labor Department spokeswoman. “Because that report will only have direct jobs, and not direct and indirect… it will likely report fewer jobs created than the 20,100.”

Here’s my run at looking for those 20,000 jobs. Email me or post below if you find anything different or think I’m off base.

Are they in the overall employment data? No. Here’s a chart from the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development showing MN employment data since February, when the stimulus was passed.

Month Employment Unemployment Rate
July 2,725,198 240,423 8.1
June 2,707,780 249,137 8.4
May 2,716,477 240,789 8.1
April 2,725,671 238,366 8
March 2,712,160 242,524 8.2
Feb 2,713,472 237,529 8

Employment rose by a little more than 13,000 from March to July. Even if you assumed that all those jobs were stimulus driven (a big stretch), you’re still 7,000 short of what the White House is estimating. You’d then need to assume that 7,000 jobs were saved. The unemployment rate barely budged in that period.

Are they in roads and bridges? No. While transportation construction gleaned a lot of the attention initially, the reality is that fewer than 3,000 jobs so far can be tied to Minnesota stimulus road construction. Here’s the Transportation Department’s most recent data.

Projects put out to bid 120
Projects under contract 101 $321,240,988
Projects underway 95 $224,642,211
Projects complete 10 $19,147,946
Jobs directly related to projects (employees of contractor, sub-contractors and consultants.) 2,903

We kept tabs on a project in western Minnesota with the help of Brent Olson, a source in MPR’s Public Insight Network. Bottom line: the project produced no new permanent jobs.

That’s also what MPR reporter Mark Zdechlik found when he went looking for the stimulus boost in a roads project in St. Peter.

In that story, Zdechlik wrote:

Until recently, MNDOT has been saying that for every $1 million spent, as many as 27 jobs could be directly and indirectly created. But those projections were based on what MnDOT says were old Federal Highway Administration figures.

MnDOT now says the jobs numbers could be less than half that; a total of 5,400 jobs rather than 13,500

Remember: Back in February Gov. Tim Pawlenty was touting Federal Highway Administration numbers saying Minnesota would get 5,000 jobs just from the first 60 greater Minnesota projects.

Anyone put out an estimate close to 20,000? Not that I found. My colleague Mike Caputo blogged on a local hearing on the stimulus a few weeks ago. The job numbers he heard in the hearing:

  • 54 St. Paul police officers saved.
  • 10 new jobs for a contractor working to rehab the Job Corps building.
  • 176 jobs saved by weatherization projects in Ramsey and Washington counties.
  • 170 jobs preserved in improving public housing in St. Paul.
  • 1,500 people hired to teach challenged kids (albeit temporarily).
  • 5,000 teaching positions saved.

That’s about 7,000 jobs.

One source in our Network told us recently she’s been hired with stimulus money on contract to help in a state jobless center. Avangelina McKnight of Mound wrote:

It is very difficult for job hunters. I hear people say “just get a job, any job.” I was networking, informational interviewing, part of groups and applying for jobs. After being unemployed for 18 months, I gladly took the position at a 30% drop in income, more than twice the commute.

In her current post, “there is not a day goes by that I do not get tear-filled eyes when speaking with (unemployment insurance) applicants and listening to their search, struggle and worry.”

The White House still predicts the stimulus will save or create 66,000 jobs in Minnesota. By that calculation, we’re about a third of the way to the goal. But where are they?


If you’re seeing — or seeking — some economic benefit from the federal stimulus bill, tell us about it.

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