The federal economic-stimulus package has directly saved or created more than 29,300 Florida jobs thus far, but it appears few of them are in Manatee County, according to federal data released Friday.
Just 103 jobs in Manatee are listed in the massive federal database, the latest attempt to quantify the impact of the $787 billion economic-rescue package passed earlier this year. Overall, White House officials say the package has directly resulted in more than 640,000 new and preserved U.S. jobs.
But those numbers, submitted by businesses, contractors, state and local governments, non-profit groups and others receiving stimulus funding, might not be correct and are certain to change.
The database, which reports job figures during the quarter ended Sept. 30, doesn’t include roughly 250 employees that Manatee school officials say they’ve been able to spare from layoffs because of the infusion of federal money.
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And while the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office has hired seven new homicide and anti-gang detectives, the database shows only 2.5 jobs — a result of the government requiring stimulus recipients to report job numbers in full-time equivalents for the quarter, not actual positions. A full-time construction worker on a one-month paving project would only count as one-third of a job.
The discrepancies underscore the difficulty in measuring the stimulus’ effectiveness in real time, and provided fodder for critics who say the Obama administration is spending too much for too little return.
“You just can’t spend your way into a strong economy,” said Sally Tibbetts, spokeswoman for Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, who has opposed the administration’s stimulus package. “It’s a trillion-dollar bill and it just hasn’t created the jobs.”
The White House disagreed, saying the latest report bolstered its case that the recession would have been far worse without the package of government spending, tax cuts, state aid and social programs.
“We’re starting to make real progress on the road to recovery,” Vice President Joe Biden said.
Officials also said the job numbers will increase as more money is released and more stimulus-funded projects get under way.
According to the database, the single biggest jobs-producer in Manatee is a runway-rehabilitation project at Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport. That $4.75 million project has generated 84 jobs.
n Four school resource officers whose jobs were saved.
n A new pediatrician, two physician assistants, two case managers, one billing position and a patient-services position at Manatee County Rural Health.
n Five federal work-study jobs at State College of Florida.
All but eight of the 69 stimulus-funded projects and programs in Manatee either had a zero or a blank space in the jobs column, according to the database. Several had notes saying that job-creation either had not started yet or was below one full-time equivalent.
That was the case for Superior Asphalt Inc., which recently won a $192,000 state contract to resurface and install sidewalks along several roads in Anna Maria. The Bradenton company plans to use existing employees on the project, said Al Mulvey, its vice president.
“For that project, we’re not going to be adding people but we’re not going to lose any,” he said, adding the company’s workforce has grown from 80 to 100 employees in recent months as a result of an uptick in work unrelated to the stimulus.
The Manatee County School Board has been the county’s largest stimulus recipient, with more than $31 million so far. But the database showed no jobs created or saved as a result.
Jim Drake, the school district’s assistant superintendent of finances, said school officials included the 250-jobs figure in reports submitted to the Florida Department of Education, which in turn submitted the data to the federal government.
“It shouldn’t be zero,” he said. “Something must have happened up in Tallahassee.”
After-hours messages left at the department were not immediately returned.
The White House said 325,000 education jobs and 80,000 in construction were among those reported as being created or saved by the stimulus, which also was credited with indirectly creating/saving at least another 400,000 jobs.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Duane Marsteller, transportation/growth and development reporter, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2630.