The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has produced or saved an estimated 262,000 construction-sector jobs through the end of 2009, the White House Council of Economic Advisers says in its latest update on the impact of the stimulus legislation.
That total represents a near doubling from the 133,000 construction jobs CEA estimated in its previous ARRA study, issued Sept. 10.
In its new report, released Jan. 13, CEA says that over all, ARRA hasincreased employment by 1.5 million to 2 million as of the fourth quarter of 2009, compared with what the jobs level would have been if the legislation had not been enacted.
CEA notes that its numbers "are only estimates," not a compilation of jobs reports from ARRA states, cities, contractors or other stimulus-aid recipients. But CEA's ARRA construction jobs figures are in line with the ARRA jobs counts reported to the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee by states and localities.
The committee says that, as of Nov. 30, ARRA funded highway and transit projects alone have created or preserved more than 250,000 "direct, on-project jobs." The committee says those jobs come from 8,587 highway and transit projects worth $19.7 billion that are under construction.
CEA says that over all, ARRA has increased employment by 1.5 million to 2 million as of the fourth quarter of 2009, compared with what the jobs level would have been if the legislation had not been enacted.
CEA's report also says that as of Dec. 31, $263.3 billion of ARRA's total $787 billion has been spent, including $164.2 billion in actual outlays and $99.1 billion worth of tax breaks received. Another $149.7 billion in ARRA funds has been obligated for specific projects or programs but not yet turned into outlays.
Despite the stimulus measure's positive construction jobs impact, the industry's overall unemployment rate increased in December to 22.7%, the highest number since at least 2000, as construction lost another 53,000 jobs in the month.
Construction economists note that ARRA-related jobs gains in the industry have been more than offset by losses in non-residential construction and public works funded by state and local governments.
CEA Chair Christina Romer told reporters that ARRA has done what administration officials had expected. She said, "I do think that the recovery act has had a fundamental impact with an economy that was in free fall in early 2009." She says that Gross Domestic Product is "actually starting to rise again" and adds, "We've gone from huge job losses to...tremendously moderating job losses. "
The top Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Darrell Issa of California, criticized the CEA report as containing "self-serving and deceptive numbers."
Romer also said, "I absolutely do feel that we need further targeted action to help jump-start job creation." President Obama on Dec. 8 announced his support for additional economic stimulus moves, including more spending for public works and energy-efficiency projects as well as help for small businesses, including tax breaks. The House has approved a $154-billion jobs bill, including $47 billion for infrastructure. Senate Democrats are developing a jobs proposal, too.