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Robert Trigaux

Closer look at Florida job loss, creation shows Gov. Scott's success claims overblown




A January 2012 job fair in downtown St. Petersburg drew 3,000 people. Photo: Melissa Lyttle, Tampa Bay Times

Wake up and good morning. On its surface, it's great news that Florida's unemployment rate in January (the news was released by the state Tuesday) dropped to 9.6 percent from 9.9 percent in December. That momentum, though, was muted in the same report saying Florida had lost -- not gained -- 38,600 jobs in January. That's more jobs lost than in any other state in January and more than four times the 9,000 jobs lost in Pennsylvania, the next state after Florida with the greatest loss of jobs.

Looking at the longer run, of course, Florida's economy is clearly improving amid such momentary blips. A key question is: How is Florida doing versus the other states in this country where the national jobless rate is 8.3 percent? Some observations:

* 45 states and Washington, DC, saw their jobless rates drop in January. Four states had no change and New York saw its rate increase.

* At 12.7 percent, Nevada still has the nation's highest unemployment rate, followed by California and Rhode Island (both at 10.9 percent) and, curiously, North Carolina at 10.2 percent.

* States with the lowest jobless rates are North Dakota at 3.2 percent and Nebraska at 4.0 percent.

In the last year, Florida has added only 54,200 jobs, factoring in the 38,600 lost jobs in January 2012. Based on these numbers, Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who's promised 700,000 new jobs in seven years (which obviously assumes his re-election), has his work cut out for him. The governor's spokespeople say January numbers are often revised over time and may not be as dire a loss as the preliminary data show.

* As this AP story notes, the Scott administration in December trumpeted numbers that showed the unemployment rate had dropped 2.1 percentage points during his first year in office. But federal officials recalculated Florida's jobless rate in December 2010 at 11.1 percent -- not the 12 percent previously reported. That change cuts in half the decline in the state jobless rate during Scott's first year.

* Florida's January 2011-January 2012 gain of just 54,200 jobs puts in well behind other states in adding jobs. In the past year (January-January), Texas added 258,200 jobs followed by New York with 139,300 and California with 126,100 and Georgia (80,300) and even Ohio (62,500) and Michigan (61,700).

There's plenty more comparative jobs data from January in this federal Bureau of Labor Statistics release.

-- Robert Trigaux, Business Columnist, Tampa Bay Times

[Last modified: Wednesday, March 14, 2012 7:41am]


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