• By The Financial District


US President Donald Trump has been savaged for bragging that he alone saved 51 million jobs after signing the bipartisan $660-billion Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) as the COVID-19 pandemic shut down companies in the US.

However, the PPP likely did not save 51 million jobs, or anywhere close to it, according to Reuters interviews with economists and an analysis of the program’s data. Half a dozen economists put the number of jobs saved by the initiative at only a fraction of 51 million – ranging between one million and 14 million. The statistical platform Statista said the US had a workforce of 155.76-million in 2018 and predicted it would increase by 2-million this year, which meant Trump’s boast covers nearly 33.3% of all employees in the US.

“I don’t think there is an economist who would say that the program has saved 50 million jobs,” said Richard Prisinzano, who was a financial economist at the US Department of the Treasury for 13 years before leaving in 2017. His rough estimate, Prisinzano said, is between five and seven million jobs saved, based on his own adjustments to other researchers’ work at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and elsewhere, Lawrence Delevingne, Chris Prentice, Michelle Price and Jeff Mason reported for Reuters on August 28, 2020.

“We’ve seen some inaccuracies with the data in terms of how they calculate how many jobs were protected and saved,” said New Jersey Democratic representative Andy Kim in August, who sits on the Small Business Committee. An economist with the conservative Heritage Foundation also questioned the figures. “This data does not tell us how many of those jobs may have existed without the PPP loans. Additionally, everyone involved has an incentive to use inflated estimates,” said Adam Michel, senior policy analyst for fiscal policy at the foundation. Michel, who has not analyzed the data himself, cited the same research that former Treasury official Prisinzano did - a paper co-authored by economists at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, MIT and ADP Research Institute. That study concluded that about 2.3 million jobs had been saved through early June.