Stimulus creates / saves 11,800 MN jobs. Is that good?

We’ve written a lot about stimulus spending, often with a skeptical eye.

There’s no doubt money is finding its way into Minnesota’s economy. The larger question — is it worth the gigantic long-term debt — hasn’t been talked about a lot.

The bigger challenge, however, may be trying to figure out whose data to trust when it comes to stimulus money and job creation.

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The Minnesota Management & Budget Office weighed in today, estimating that 11,800 jobs had been created so far in Minnesota via direct state government spending from the stimulus bill, spending that totaled $1.6 billion.

Here’s what we’ve been told over the past few months about jobs, Minnesota and stimulus money.

February. Gov. Tim Pawlenty touts Federal Highway Administration numbers saying Minnesota would get 5,000 jobs just from the first 60 greater Minnesota projects.

But only about 3,448 jobs can be directly tied to the 114 transportation projects funded so far with stimulus money, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

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

But the feds put the expected Minnesota job savings/ creation at 66,000 when the bill was passed.

It might still get there. Or it might not.

That’s probably the biggest struggle I have with the official numbers today.

It’d be easy enough to conclude $136,000 was spent in stimulus money to save or create each of those 11,800 jobs. Yes, that’s unfair, because it doesn’t include other kinds of stimulus spending, including consumer incentives to insulate homes, awards made to local governments and others that may also be saving or creating jobs.

But if everyone’s got numbers, and they all do them a little differently, how are we supposed to know?

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

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