In a report due out this week, Vermont officials will conduct the first statewide tally of jobs “created or preserved” by the federal stimulus package. But the figures necessarily will fall well short of the 8,000 jobs projected by federal economists at the outset of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The final calculations won’t be ready until late this week, but Vermont “recovery czar” Tom Evslin says he’s certain the total won’t come close to what was predicted. That doesn’t necessarily mean that many jobs weren’t created or saved; there’s just no way to document the effect.

via Stimulus job tally: Don’t get hopes up: Rutland Herald Online.

Apparently, we’ve changed the language from “create and save” to “create and preserve”.  From the best I can tell from reading this article the change in phrase is coming from the federal government.  What is it that they hope to achieve?  Who are they hoping to fool by changing the words?

In other news, Vermont has a “recovery czar”.  Vermont has a “recovery czar”?  Anyway, he uses the old terminology of “created or saved”.  So which is it?

Either way, I’ve been pondering whether or not “saving” or “preserving” jobs is a worthy endeavor (assuming it is even possible to measure).  It probably depends on what you mean when you say jobs.  If you mean some one working (no matter what their task), then saving a job means keeping that person employed no matter what the financial considerations to the employer.  If you mean a specific task, then saving a job might mean hanging onto to a task that is obsolete and thereby inefficient for the employer.

So, if you go by definition number one, then it seems compassionate to try and “preserve” jobs.  You want people to be employed.  Is it possible to save a such a job?  Too much pizza this weekend is clouding my thinking, so I’ll have to give that answer some more thought.

If you go by definition number two, then it is counterproductive to “preserve” a job.  Employing someone in a role that is no longer needed is not productive and is therefore an unnecessary cost.  Saving jobs in this case is actually costing money that could be used in other, more productive, ways.  A classic definition of economics by Lionel Robbins: Economics is the study of the use of scarce resources which have alternative uses. In this case, the money being used by the government has an alternative use: being spent and/or saved by the taxpayer who sent it to the government in the first place.  Of course, the government could just print more money, ending the scarcity problem, but in the process that would distort the value of money and create inflation problems.

Whether you’re intent on saving people from unemployment or saving roles from extinction, the use of the taxpayer stimulus money is not going to have the intended outcome of stimulating the economy.  We’re living through the proof of that right now.