Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) sent a letter on Nov. 13 (pdf) to Earl Devaney, the chairman of the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board, raising some questions about the stimulus data posted on Recovery.gov. Issa was specifically concerned about the “jobs created/saved” data: The site claims 640,329 jobs have been created or saved, but there’s widespread agreement that figure is wrong.
I’ve probably made this point before, but it’s worth making again. There’s a lot of snark going around about the job-creation figures released last week on Recovery.gov. The conservative National Review, for example, jokes that the data shows an “embarrass[ing]” $533,000-per-job performance by the economic stimulus bill.
That $533,000 figure comes from dividing the total amount of money spent so far on contracts, $16 billion, by the number of jobs they created, 30,000. $533,000 is more than 10 times the median national income — so if it takes that much money to create a job, the stimulus bill must be wildly inefficient, right?
Wrong. The $533,000-per-job figure is wildly misleading, for two reasons.
The Recovery Accountability and Transparency board has posted the first batch of recipient reporting data on Recovery.gov.
A little background for those of you who don’t follow the stimulus bill quite as obsessively as we do:
Recovery.gov already had agency reporting data, which comes directly from the agencies that awarded the money. But the recipients of that money are also required to report, on a quarterly basis, on each contract, grant or loan they receive. The first round of reporting ended on Oct. 10, and the RAT board has staretd posting that data online.
This data — in theory — is more detailed than the agency-reported data; it also enumerates the number of jobs created or saved by each project.
One big caveat: This first round of data only covers contracts awarded using stimulus money, not grants or loans. Contracts represent roughly $16 billion in spending, or less than 10 percent of the total stimulus money awarded to date. The grant/loan data should be available by Oct. 30.
So be careful about jumping to any conclusions based on this data — it’s a small fraction of the total stimulus spending.
You can visit it here, obviously. I got a preview of the site on Friday, along with about a dozen other journalists, at a session hosted by the “RAT board” and Smartronix, the company that developed the site.
Overall it’s a big improvement over the previous Recovery.gov site. The new site includes a mapping feature that allows you to view spending data by state, county, and congressional district; it also contains exponentially more spending data than the previous site.
There are still some glaring omissions: You can’t enter the name of a contractor and view all contracts awarded to that company, for example. Smartronix says that feature (and others) will be added in future releases.
The biggest omission, of course, is “recipient data” — spending data reported by the recipients of federal grants and contracts. Recipients aren’t required to start reporting until Oct. 1; Smartronix says the data will go live in mid-to-late October.