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White House Sees Job Gain of 8.3 Million : Employment: Report trumpets benefits of Clinton's economic package state by state. Critics, and even some insiders, question figures.

July 24, 1993|JAMES RISEN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WASHINGTON — With much fanfare, the White House issued a report Friday claiming that 8.3 million jobs would be created by President Clinton's economic program and providing a state-by-state breakdown of the expected employment gains.

But the report's credibility was immediately called into question by Clinton critics, and even Administration officials privately acknowledged that the projections are based on arbitrary and sometimes misleading data.

The report was unveiled at a White House press conference by Vice President Al Gore and senior members of the Clinton Cabinet. They said the study demonstrates that Clinton will be able to fulfill his campaign pledge to create 8 million jobs over four years. The state-by-state breakdown says 1.9 million of those jobs would be generated in California.

But in private conversations, Administration officials conceded that the detailed breakdown is not based on a rigorous effort to determine the effects of Clinton's program in each state. Instead, the Administration generated the figures from a formula used to calculate how each state has benefited from nationwide economic growth over the last 10 years.

In addition, officials said the 8.3 million figure includes all of the job growth expected to occur in response to overall economic growth during the next four years, not the additional employment that might be created if Congress approves Clinton's budget priorities.

Administration officials said that they really do not know how many additional jobs the Clinton budget actually is likely to generate, either nationally or at the state level. Many, perhaps most, of the 8 million jobs would be created by the recovery even if Clinton's budget is not passed, they acknowledged.

"I've been trying to tell the message people not to claim that the budget will create 8 million jobs, but I think that hasn't been clear in all of the (press) releases," noted a senior Administration policy-maker who requested anonymity.

Indeed, White House public relations officials were eagerly embellishing the job claims Friday, insisting, for instance, that an Administration proposal to auction off unused parts of the broadcast airwaves would generate 300,000 jobs.

"That's crazy," noted a senior Administration official.

Administration sources said that they were pressured to develop the state-by-state breakdown by nervous congressional Democrats who have been hurt by Republican charges that the Clinton plan will destroy jobs. The Administration program calls for a combination of tax increases and spending restraints to reduce the deficit by $500 billion over five years.

The White House report was a direct response to a chart projecting state-by-state job losses attributable to a proposed energy tax that was later dropped by the Administration. The energy tax chart was developed by the Tax Foundation, a conservative think tank, and was used effectively by Republicans during the Senate debate on the budget.

"We were sort of forced to put out some numbers," said one senior official. "This is our way of giving some (Democratic) members some cover."

Such statistical debates are nothing new in Washington. In 1988, then President George Bush promised that his economic policies would generate 30 million jobs over eight years. In 1992, Democratic candidate Clinton derided Bush's promise and rode the economic issue straight into the White House. But in the process, he made his own commitment to generate 8 million jobs over four years.

Now, even though Clinton has shifted the focus of his economic plan from job creation to deficit reduction, he is under pressure to keep his promise. On Friday, the White House went Bush one better, actually specifying how many jobs will be created in each state.

Yet as Clinton goes out of his way to renew his job pledge, he seems in danger of falling into much the same trap as the man he beat. Clinton's numerical targets may be more modest, but they still are likely to prove extraordinarily difficult to meet for a nation that still seems stuck in what economists call a "jobless recovery."

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