By Don Heinzman
ECM Editorial Writer
Contrary to what critics are saying, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (federal stimulus funds) is creating and saving jobs in Minnesota.
Amid the din and chatter during this toxic political campaign season, those who say the stimulus funds have not created or saved jobs in Minnesota are wrong.
According to the Council of Economic Advisors, as of March 30, stimulus funds are projected to have created and saved 61,000 jobs in Minnesota. That’s since the funds were authorized in February 2009.
For the nation as a whole, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the stimulus funds have created or saved 1.2 to 3.3 million jobs.
According to the Minnesota Office of Management and budget, which coordinates the spending of the stimulus funds, Minnesota has received $5.9 billion.
Of that amount $1.1 billion has gone for extension of unemployment compensation insurance and $2 billion has been used to supplement the state’s Medicaid program.
Approximately $2 billion is being spent to create or retain jobs in the public and private sectors.
Critics are saying not enough jobs either have been retained or created, but defenders of the program say the stimulus funds have helped keep Minnesota’s unemployment rate two percentage points below the national average.
The rate of employment in Minnesota has been running around 6.7 percent, except for July when it jumped to 7.2 percent largely because of the state government shutdown that idled 28,000 workers.
In Minnesota, as of July, 2.76 million people were working and 213,000 were unemployed.
The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) observes that the job picture is slowly getting better. They point to a job vacancy survey that two weeks go found job vacancies up 32 percent this second quarter compared to job vacancies a year ago.
Many of these openings were for part-time and temporary jobs, a predictor of better times ahead.
DEED officials also say the unemployment compensation applications are slowly declining over last year. For the week of Sept. 3, there were 101,000 such requests.
While still too many Minnesotans are unemployed, it’s important to examine the facts in Minnesota when office-seekers claim the federal stimulus funds aren’t helping Minnesotans find work.