Did stimulus create jobs in Florida? Try 167,000, says state recovery chief
Wake up and good morning. Amid all the political bluster claiming the federal stimulus created few jobs comes more concrete evidence that jobs were indeed created (and many more preserved). In a St. Petersburg Times reporter Richard Danielson story this morning, Don Winstead (photo, left), Gov. Charlie Crist's adviser on stimulus spending, says that Florida-wide, the stimulus has created an estimated 167,000 jobs.
More compelling is this. Winstead says Florida's unemployment rate, which rose to 11.7 percent in August, would be one-half to 1 1/2 points higher without the stimulus (that's a potential 13.2 percent unemployment rate). Nationally, unemployment might be as much as 1.8 percent higher without the stimulus, according to the Congressional Budget Office. Here's Danielson's story. On that theme, here's a fact-checked PolitiFact Florida report debunking I-want-to-be-governor Rick Scott's claim that no private sector jobs in Florida were created by the stimulus. The Sarasota Herald Tribune chimes in with an opinion piece critical of multi-millionaire candidate Scott's bizarre claims that the state should not take any stimulus money.
Is the stimulus a finely honed and efficient tool to grow the economy and create jobs? Absolutely not. Is it better than doing nothing in such perilous economic times? You betcha. Consider this Tampa Tribune piece today about expiring stimulus funds for local teachers: "Thousands of school jobs are on the line as school districts across the state scramble to pay for positions funded by stimulus dollars set to expire this year."
Or Courtney Bergeron's plight in Gainesville where she has worked full time as an office administrator at the Banner Center for Construction at Santa Fe College. Now she could be out job hunting again at the end of this month, when federal funding for the stimulus jobs program is scheduled to expire -- unless Congress extends the program, says this Gainesville Sun story.
On Friday, the White House cited three Florida stimulus projects as part of a push back against critics of the $814 billion program. One of them. says this AP story, is the $105 million highway connecting Tampa's port and downtown, which is expected to employ 105 people.
To be sure, the sooner we can wean the country off stimulus money, the better we'll all be. But in a state where the unemployment rate is already more than 2 percentage points higher than the nation's, we'd better have some momentum in the right direction before cutting the cord.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist