WASHINGTON – The $787 billion economic stimulus bill President Obama signed last week is estimated to create or protect 109,000 Michigan jobs and 3.5 million jobs nationally over the next two years,but some say it's too soon to tell.
“It's just too difficult to predict what's going to happen with the job creation,and we have not really seen a clear outlook,” said Kevan Chapman,communications director for Rep. Vernon Ehlers,R-Mich.
Just a few hours before Obama signed the bill in Denver on Feb. 16,the White House released estimates for how it expects the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to affect jobs by states and congressional districts.
“Given the turbulence of the economy right now,Rep. Ehlers greatly wishes we could have 7,500 new jobs in west Michigan,but just the nature of predicting things … he's concerned it won't fully materialize. And furthermore,it's very difficult to create jobs in that short time,” Chapman said.
Michigan's 13th and 14th congressional districts are estimated to gain or retain about 12,500 jobs,according to the White House.
Daniel Cherrin,press secretary for Detroit Mayor Kenneth Cockrel Jr.,estimates about 36,000 new jobs will be created based on the bill and the projects the city submitted,but the time frame is undetermined.
“We are very interested in creating jobs in every sector,” Cherrin said.
Charles Ballard,Michigan State University professor of economics,said the Obama administration's estimates are probably the best anyone could make.
“First of all,remember that the damage done to the American economy over the last few years is profound,” he said. “I think the estimates the Obama administration has come up with are probably in the right ballpark. The policy makers and the economists are sort of feeling our way along because we've never seen anything like this.”
Michigan's December unemployment rate was 10.4 percent,and Mackinac County had the highest unemployment rate,24.2 percent,according to the Michigan Department of Energy,Labor & Economic Growth.
To put it into perspective,50,000 jobs is about 1 percent of the Michigan workforce,Ballard said. If the bill creates 109,000 Michigan jobs,it would lower the state's unemployment rate by about 2 percentage points.
Ballard said it's difficult to predict the effect this will have on Michigan's job market because it's not clear how many of the jobs will be saved versus created.
“That doesn't tell you for sure how much of a dent that will make in our unemployment number,” he said.
Chapman said the most potential for growth and the best investment for the future are in the science,health and research sectors,but the greatest job losses have occurred in Michigan's manufacturing sector.
“It's tough for them to get back on their feet,” he said. “I don't know if that means creating more manufacturing jobs or re-training programs.”
Ballard said Michigan's economic recovery will have to come from job growth in a variety of sectors. The state will retain a strong manufacturing basis,but in a different way than before.
“If we can have more manufacturing jobs where the workers are building solar panels,that would be all for the good,” he said. “We don't know what the next big thing is.”