House Democrats this week credited stimulus road and transit projects with creating or sustaining nearly 50,000 jobs. But a close look shows the estimate suffers from what’s become a common malaise in the stimulus world: fuzzy math.
Interviews and spot checks with states that provided job counts to the committee uncovered some glitches, in particular a reliance on raw head counts — which tend to inflate the numbers by giving full- and part-time jobs the same weight — and by counting the same workers two, three or four times.
One way around the problem is to use what’s known as full-time equivalents — the hours worked on stimulus projects divided by the hours in a typical work week (43 for construction jobs). By that measure, the stimulus provided the equivalent of a mere 9,920 full-time jobs since March, when the first projects broke ground. But that’s probably shortchanging things — after all, even part-time work is a job.
The article goes on to provide some details into the trickiness of figuring the job impacts of stimulus spending. Fascinating stuff. You have to realize, if it is this hard to measure accurately the job effects on the ground, it is VASTLY harder to forecast future job effects of stimulus spending. Those are not based on science, but just raw belief.
Hat tip to Steve Frank’s California Poltiical News and Views.