TALLAHASSEE — Florida will gain at least a million new jobs over the next seven years, which is 300,000 more than promised by Gov.-elect Rick Scott without the tax cuts and other changes he's seeking, state economists predicted Monday.
While their long-term forecast remained rosy, the economists from the Legislature and Gov. Charlie Crist's office were gloomier about the immediate future than in July when they last updated their economic estimate.
They now are forecasting unemployment rates will remain at or near 11.8 percent and the housing market will stay depressed for longer than anticipated. That's expected to reduce state revenue, which may widen a $2.5 billion budget gap earlier predicted for the next budget year.
The outlook is much more optimistic beyond the next couple of years. The state now has about 7.2 million jobs, but that's expected to increase to at least 7.7 million by the 2013-14 fiscal year and to nearly 8.3 million seven years from now in 2017-18.
The economists foresee a rebound to prerecession prosperity, but it's going to take a bit longer.
"Our belief is that there is nothing that has changed about Florida, its attraction to other states and other countries and that we're slowly heading back to that same pace," said Amy Baker, coordinator of the Legislature's Office of Economic and Demographic Research. "Over the long run there's still significant growth in our forecast."
Scott has proposed property and corporate income tax cuts, state budget reductions and the repeal of government regulations to reach his more modest 700,000-job goal.
A spokesman for the Republican governor-elect did not immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment.
The economists' new forecast actually calls for slightly fewer jobs than the 8.32 million they had predicted in July for 2017-18.
They also said the unemployment rate will remain about 11.8 percent through the first quarter of 2011 before dropping to 11.6 percent. That's a quarter later than previously forecast. As before, they still expect the jobless rate to finally drop below 10 percent in the third quarter of 2012. It's expected to continue falling until it reaches 5.5 percent in 2019-20.
The state outlook is based on a national forecast the economists made last week except for the housing market, which is worse in Florida due in part to a high foreclosure rate that keeps dumping more homes on the market.
The state forecast will serve as the basis for a general revenue estimate due next month for use in Scott's first budget request to lawmakers early next year.