BOSTON (AP) Gov. Deval Patrick said Oct. 28 that the federal stimulus program has created or saved more than 23,000 jobs in Massachusetts since February.
State agencies have received $4 billion from the national $787 billion package, and have spent $1.9 billion. The expenses include $1.3 billion for such benefits as unemployment insurance and $500 million on programs and infrastructure.
The 23,533 jobs represent anyone whose paycheck was supported by stimulus money, including about 6,000 summer interns, whose jobs have now ended.
Patrick said the extra money has helped avoid deeper job cuts across the state. He said many of those who were spared pink slips as a result of the stimulus spending included teachers, firefighters, police officers and construction workers.
“Real jobs are being created or saved,’’ Patrick told reporters during a press conference in his office. “Real projects are under way.’’
The issue of the number of jobs created by the federal stimulus program has been contentious.
Critics, including Republican activists, questioned Oct. 28 how the administration came up with the number of saved or retained jobs. They also pointed out that despite the extra spending, the state’s unemployment numbers continue to climb.
In September, the unemployment rate rose to 9.3 percent in Massachusetts, its highest level since 1976.
“Another report to claim phantom jobs have been ’created or retained’ won’t convince people otherwise,’’ said Jennifer Nassour, chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party.
Massachusetts officials earlier this year also expressed frustration after the Obama administration estimated the 27-month program would save or create 79,000 jobs in the state. At the time, state officials overseeing the program in Massachusetts said they had no idea how the White House came up with the pledge.
U.S. Rep. James Oberstar of Minnesota, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, also complained that Massachusetts wasn’t spending its funding fast enough.
But Patrick said he expects the state will eventually secure about $6 billion in total stimulus funds, and he hopes to exceed the 79,000 job figure when all the federal money is spent.
He also defended the pace of spending. He said Massachusetts has met its federal deadlines, but has been cautious about additional spending of stimulus dollars to ensure they produce long-term benefits.
“It’s a very conservative approach we have taken,’’ he said.
At the press conference, Patrick surrounded himself with labor leaders who said the extra spending has prevented more drastic job cuts.
“There is nothing more debilitating than losing one’s job,’’ said Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Robert Haynes.
Jeffrey Simon, director of Infrastructure Investment in Massachusetts, said the 23,533 jobs represents real individuals whose jobs have been created or saved as a result of the spending. He said a formula used to estimate the number of indirect jobs saved as a result of the surge of spending would increase the total number to about 35,000 jobs.