Federal stimulus plan's local impact isn't easy to measure

The Kansas City StarNovember 17, 2009 

Ozella Jones is one. Brian Decker counts, too.

Barry Newkirk knows of three others, but not by name. Nor can Tim Scott put faces with the 11 he tallied.

It's darn tough to figure out who has any of the more than 200 jobs in the Kansas City area that have been created or saved thanks to federal stimulus spending.

Officially, at the end of September 207.39 Kansas City-area jobs had been directly created or saved by stimulus spending, according to 72 employers' reports posted at Recovery.gov.

The seemingly senseless total reflects the difficulty that government, or more precisely employers, have had identifying the impact of the $787 billion that Congress appropriated last year.

Media coverage nationally has turned up errors in reports. Some jobs were counted multiple times. Some tiny contracts claimed to have created inexplicably large numbers of jobs.

Even when such problems don't exist, the count is difficult, but it is an important part of Washington's efforts to revive a moribund job market that continues to struggle even as the economy has begun to grow again.

Economists generally agree that every layoff avoided or new job created, no matter how it happened, limits economic damage. The nation's still-rising 10.2 percent unemployment rate led President Barack Obama last week to call for a national jobs summit to find other ways to spur work.

For its part, the stimulus job count is designed to show that federal dollars are making a difference in the workplace.

"That is classic Keynesian expansionary policy," said Michael Stellern, an economics professor at Rockhurst University and a member of the economic advisory board of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce.

"The government is trying to stimulate the economy by spending money, creating jobs and having these people continue that spending, and I think that is just very appropriate policy," he said.

To read the complete article, visit www.kansascity.com.

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