Businesses eligible for tax credits under an Obama administration stimulus package hired an estimated 5.6 million workers, the Treasury Department said on Monday.
The government released updated estimates for the number of workers as it sought to highlight the Hiring Incentives to Restore Employment Act signed into law in March giving tax credits to business to hire workers.
The Obama administration is fighting the perception that it is not doing enough to combat near-10 percent unemployment as voters prepare to head to the polls for the November mid-term elections.
The law gives payroll tax exemptions and other credits to firms that hire people who have been unemployed for eight weeks or longer. Treasury did not specify whether the workers were hired because of the tax credits or simply because the economy was improving.
Knowing how many workers would be hired absent the credit is extremely difficult, assistant secretary for economic policy Alan Krueger told reporters, because it would require proving what would happen in the absence of the credits.
Still, he said there is a safe assumption that a portion of the hires were related to the credit and said the stimulus delivered a good bang for the government's buck.
The administration spotlighted Albany Medical Center in upstate, New York, where its chief executive told reporters the credits helped him hire 157 new workers.
That gave us immediate tax relief of hundreds of thousands of dollars and frankly made my job considerably easier in deciding we would hire people, CEO James Barba said.
New York State Senator Charles Schumer cited the report in calling for an extension of the credit for six months.
Treasury said the hiring took place between February and June.
The estimate covers only workers unemployed for 60 days or more who are hired by employers eligible for the payroll tax exemption. In addition to the payroll tax exemption, employers can claim a credit of $1,000 for eligible workers who are retained for one year.
(Additional reporting by Glenn Somerville)
(Editing by Leslie Adler and Diane Craft)