Depending on who's doing the counting, the massive infusion of federal stimulus into the state has saved or created from nearly 30,000 jobs to more than 64,000 since it was passed by Congress last February.
While a fierce political debate has been raging over the price and effectiveness of the stimulus, Florida officials on Friday credited federal assistance for keeping teachers on the job and for starting construction projects across the state.
But the total number of jobs associated with the stimulus pales in comparison to the more than 1 million Floridians who are out of work. Florida's 11 percent unemployment rate is the highest in more than 30 years.
In addition, a large number of jobs appear to be those of teachers who were spared cuts that school districts would have been forced to make had the stimulus not propped up Florida funding for education. The impact appears less dramatic so far on creating new, high-paying construction jobs rebuilding the state's roads, bridges and other infrastructure, which was one of President Obama's priority for the stimulus. More here.
Don Winstead, Florida's stimulus czar, explained to reporters on a conference call on Friday evening that there's several different ways to count the jobs number. The federal government is relying on a formula that actually counts FTE's or full-time equivalents while state government did what Winstead called a "bellybutton" count of actual people. Then there's yet another number drawn up by the budget office of Gov. Charlie Crist that tries to count both the direct and indirect impact.
So there's a lot of numbers to try to absorb but here's some to keep in mind:
* 29,321 - That's how many now show up on the federal government website. These jobs come from a handful of sources, including numbers fed into them by state government, jobs numbers from federal contracts like repair work going on at Florida military bases, and numbers from local governments that were given direct grants as part of the $787 billion stimulus package.
* 47,069 - That's the number of people who are actually in these jobs. Winstead's argument is that the fed numbers are "very conservative" because they rely on the number of hours worked in an actual quarter. So if someone started in mid-September, that gets counted as a fraction of a job, not a whole job.
* 64,300 - This is the calculation that Crist's budget office has reached about the stimulus impact in Florida so far.
* 16,831 - This is the number of education FTE's that Florida told the federal government were "saved" due to stimulus funding. So if you do the math, you can see the majority of the 29,321 jobs reported to the federal government were not created but were retained.
* 25,771 - This is the number of education jobs that Florida calculates were "saved" due to stimulus funding. That's more than half of the 47,069 noted in the previous entry.
* $402 million - This is how much the federal government says that Florida has so far received out of $6.7 billion it is line to eventually get. But it's important to note that the federal government numbers do not include food stamps, unemployment compensation assistance, tax cuts, or increased funding for Medicaid.
* $5.5 billion - The Republican-controlled Florida Legislature used this much money to plug a gap in this year's budget - which runs from July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2010. The biggest chunk of this comes from increased Medicaid funding.
* $15.3 billion - This is how much that Winstead's office calculates Florida will get from the stimulus once all the money flows through, not including money that Floridians would receive in the form of tax cuts.