Economists taking a fresh look at the state’s unemployment rate report findings that support workers’ organizations which say the state’s job picture may be improving because thousands of jobless Floridians are leaving the workforce.
In a detailed complaint filed with the U.S. Labor Department, Florida Legal Services and the National Employment Law Project charge that sweeping changes to how Florida workers must file claims have denied unemployment checks to thousands of eligible Floridians.
Critics say frustration with the system also may be aiding Gov. Rick Scott’s goal of reducing unemployment. Some workers may abandon their job search or just leave the state, falling out of Florida’s labor market, they said.
The Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research this week released its latest economic overview for the state, which says that as much as 75 percent of the state’s 1.2 percent drop in unemployment since last December is attributed to Floridians leaving the workforce.
If the same number of Floridians were in the labor force, April’s 8.7 percent unemployment rate — a three-year low– 9.6 percent of workers in the state would have been unemployed, EDR concluded. Those disappearing from the workforce could have abandoned their job search, returned to school, left the state or retired.
But critics say that Scott is overstating the health of Florida’s economy when he claims the unemployment drop is proof the state is on what he called the “path to recovery.”
Even at 8.7 percent unemployment, Florida’s rate remains above the nationwide 8.1 percent level. Only seven states have higher unemployment rates than Florida, which was tied in April with Mississippi and Illinois, EDR found.