Latest Florida economic review continues to question Scott’s turnaround claimsby John Kennedy | July 17th, 2012
The latest state assessment of Florida’s economy continues to cloud Gov. Rick Scott’s claims that his policies are leading to an eye-catching drop in unemployment.
The Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research said Tuesday that the 1.3 percent decline in the state’s jobless level between the end of 2011 and May is largely attributed to Floridians leaving the workforce.
The unemployment rate in December was 9.9 percent and in May was clocked in at 8.6 percent. But EDR found that had the same number of Floridians been seeking jobs in May, that actual unemployment level would have been 9.5 percent, a more modest reduction.
“Sixty-nine percent of the drop in the unemployment rate is due to people dropping out of the labor force,” the analysis concluded. EDR raised similar concerns last month about April’s rate, which marked a three-year low in jobless levels.
The workforce decline is occuring in most states. But as the nation’s biggest battleground state in the presidential contest, Florida’s improving employment picture is being grabbed by both parties.
Scott says the state’s gains would be even better if the national scene improved. President Obama, who is scheduled to campaign Thursday and Friday in Florida, including a stop at West Palm Beach’s Century Village, also has taken credit for brightening the Sunshine State’s out-of-work numbers.
For its part, EDR’s analysis steers clear of praise. The findings show that Florida will need to gain 1 million jobs to match the state’s pre-recession employment levels. Meanwhile, only four counties have gained employment over the past four years — rural Glades, Sumter, Suwannee and Calhoun.
Scott, though, says that since he was inaugurated, the state has created 99,600 jobs through May. His campaign goal: 700,000 jobs in seven years.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Labor Department is still reviewing a complaint by Florida Legal Services and the National Employment Law Project that wholesale changes to how Florida workers file claims have denied unemployment checks to thousands of eligible Floridians.
The latest change occured July 1, when state officials rebranded Florida’s unemployment compensation system. It’s now called reemployment assistance — but critics say it’s still hard to get.
Critics say frustration with the system may be fueling the perception of a sharp unemployment drop.
Thousands of job-seekers are more likely abandoning their search or just leaving the state and falling out of Florida’s labor market, they said.