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Study: Stimulus Funds Primarily Used to Poach Workers, Not Hire Unemployed

12:14 PM, Aug 31, 2011 • By MARK HEMINGWAY
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The Mercatus Center at George Mason University has just released an important new study on the hiring practices of firms that used stimulus funds. It's fairly comprehensive, based on over 1,300 surveys of managers and employees. There's been very little good empirical data on the stimulus thus far, so the study contains a lot of valuable insights. Among the findings by authors Dan Rothschild and Garrett Jones:

Hiring isn’t the same as net job creation. In our survey, just 42.1 percent of the workers hired at ARRA-receiving organizations after January 31, 2009, were unemployed at the time they were hired (Appendix C). More were hired directly from other organizations (47.3 percent of post-ARRA workers), while a handful came from school (6.5%) or from outside the labor force (4.1%)(Figure 2). Thus, there was an almost even split between “job creating” and “job switching.” This suggests just how hard it is for Keynesian job creation to work in a modern, expertise-based economy: even in a weak economy, organizations hired the employed about as often as the unemployed.

Put simply, stimulus funds caused more job shifting than job creation. Another key finding? Union-friendly wage protections kill jobs:

Among organizations required to pay prevailing wages, 38.2 percent thought that they could have hired workers at wages below the Davis-Bacon prevailing wage (Figure 3) while another 17 percent were unsure. This meant higher costs for the federal government and fewer jobs created.

The idea that the Stimulus' Davis-Bacon requirements undercut the supposed job creation benefits of government spending isn't a new revelation. However, this is pretty definitive confirmation this was one of major reasons the stimulus failed to live up to job creation expectations.

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