Innumeracy

Via Hot Air and Patterico comes these two articles from the Associated Press and the Columbus Dispatch, respectively.

The Obama administration has been claiming that the stimulus “created or saved” jobs. But there have been some significant factual problems in the numbers reported.

From the Columbus Dispatch article:

Of the 212.5 full-time equivalent jobs the district said were funded with part of the $64 million in stimulus it expects to receive, about 65 percent were “saved,” including 36 principals and assistant principals.

So was the district on the verge of laying off 36 school administrators?

“No,” Dannemiller said, explaining that the reporting choices were “created” and “saved.”

“They weren’t ‘created,’ obviously, so our only other choice was ‘saved.’ “

… So if these jobs weren’t in danger, what was the money used for? Apparently, raises and bonuses. From the AP article:

About two-thirds of the 14,506 jobs claimed to be saved under one federal office, the Administration for Children and Families at Health and Human Services, actually weren’t saved at all, according to a review of the latest data by The Associated Press. Instead, that figure includes more than 9,300 existing employees in hundreds of local agencies who received pay raises and benefits and whose jobs weren’t saved.

And further down in the AP article, there’s this spectacular demonstration of innumeracy:

At Southwest Georgia Community Action Council in Moultrie, Ga., director Myrtis Mulkey-Ndawula said she followed the guidelines the Obama administration provided. She said she multiplied the 508 employees by 1.84 — the percentage pay raise they received — and came up with 935 jobs saved.

The innumeracy on display by Ms. Mulkey-Ndawula is staggering. She multiplied by 1.84 when she should have multipled by 0.0184 — throwing her results off by a factor of a hundred. Leaving aside how ridiculous it is to claim that a raise is a “fraction of a job saved” (if the job was truly in danger, why would there be any raises?), that means that instead of reporting 9.35 jobs “saved” as a result of those raises, she reported 935 jobs “saved”.

Innumeracy. It’s a real problem, folks.

And while Ms. Mulkey-Ndawula’s innumeracy may not be widespread, the false reporting of raises and other uses of stimulus money as “saved jobs” is indeed widespread. Near the close of the AP article closes, we find:

More than 250 other community agencies in the U.S. similarly reported saving jobs when using the money to give pay raises, to pay for training and continuing education, to extend employee work hours or to buy equipment, according to their spending reports.

The next sentence tells us that “[o]ther agencies didn’t count the raises as jobs saved, reporting zero jobs,” but this fails to reassure, since we aren’t told how many. Since counting raises as partial “saved jobs” was done on direct instructions from the administration, I’m guessing most of the other agencies counted things this way as well. Which means there are some massive problems underlying the claim of X number of jobs saved by the stimulus.