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Obama promises more than 600,000 stimulus jobs

WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama is promising to deliver more than 600,000 jobs through his $787 billion stimulus plan this summer, repackaging a pledge the administration made weeks earlier as the economy continues to lose hundreds of thousands of jobs each month.

Obama spotlighted billions in federal agency spending planned this summer in an announcement Monday designed to draw attention to his stimulus program. Much of the spending he announced already was in the works, including hundreds of maintenance projects at military bases, about 1,600 state road and airport improvements, and federal money states budgeted for 135,000 teachers, principals and school support staff.

Obama's promise to create large numbers of jobs - a vow that Vice President Joe Biden made last month - quickly drew criticism from oponents and economists who have argued his stimulus plan thus far hasn't delivered.

"I think these estimates are overly optimistic," said Arpitha Bykere, a senior analyst with RGE Monitor.

Bykere said it likely will be later this year before any meaningful job creation occurs from stimulus spending.

The administration had always viewed the summer as a peak for stimulus spending, as better weather permits more public works construction and federal agencies had processed requests from states and others.

The government reported last week that the number of unemployed continues to rise; the unemployment rate now sits at 9.4 percent, the highest in more than 25 years. Hundreds of thousands of Americans continue to lose jobs each month, although fewer jobs were lost last month than expected.

Just how much of an impact Obama's recovery program had on the pace of job losses is up for debate. Obama has claimed as many as 150,000 jobs saved or created by his stimulus plan so far, even as government reports have shown the economy has lost more than 1.6 million jobs since Congress approved funding for the program in February.

Republicans remain critical of the stimulus spending, slamming it as a big government program that ultimately will do little for recovery. With only a fraction of the federal money actually spent thus far, it's premature to give the stimulus plan credit for economic trends, congressional Republicans said last week.

"I think the economy is just as likely to begin to recover on its own, wholly aside from this, before much of this has an impact. So I'm very skeptical that this massive sort of spending binge that we've engaged in is going to have much of an impact," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Obama initially offered his stimulus plan as a way to put people back to work, a promise that 3.5 million jobs would be saved or created. The administration's predictions that unemployment would rise no higher than 8 percent already have been shattered, leaving Obama's advisers to caution that job growth takes time, even as recovery spending intensifies.

Federal agencies will release billions of stimulus dollars to states in the coming months.

Health and Human Services will provide funding for 1,129 health centers to provide expanded service for 300,000 patients; Interior will begin improvements on 107 national parks; Veterans Affairs will start work on 90 medical centers in 38 states; the Justice Department will fund 5,000 law enforcement jobs; the Agriculture Department will begin 200 new rural waste and water system projects; and the Environmental Protection Agency will begin or accelerate the cleanup of 20 Superfund sites.

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