Forecast: Florida job creation slowing down this year

The Florida Chamber says uncertainty in the Florida Legislature — including the shaky fate of the state's economic development organization Enterprise Florida — is tipping the scales.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, left, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R- Land O' Lakes, right, have been locked in a bitter battle over the fate of Enterprise Florida. The Florida Chamber predicts a slowdown in job creation in part because companies fear the jobs incentive program is in peril.
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, left, and House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R- Land O' Lakes, right, have been locked in a bitter battle over the fate of Enterprise Florida. The Florida Chamber predicts a slowdown in job creation in part because companies fear the jobs incentive program is in peril. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
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TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Chamber of Commerce predicts that the rising streak of job creation in the state is behind us.

Jerry Parrish, the Florida Chamber of Commerce's chief economist, forecasts that Florida will create 190,000 new jobs in 2017, down from the 244,400 jobs created last year.

Parrish told a group during the chamber's Capitol Days event in Tallahassee Tuesday that job creation in Florida peaked in April 2016. But uncertainty in the Florida Legislature — including the shaky fate of the state's economic development organization Enterprise Florida — is tipping the scales.

"The signals they're sending to Florida businesses is that we're not going to compete anymore," Parrish said during the reveal of the chamber's 2017 Florida Scorecard, an annual review of business analysis for the state.

"Few recruiters and companies are looking at Florida because of the rhetoric right now. If you're not investing private dollars in this state, you're not going to create as many jobs."

Parrish predicts that job creation will continue to dip in the years to come.

"It's going to be tougher and tougher to create jobs in this state. Now is not the time to abandon our proven economic development program," he said.

Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran has made it a priority during this legislative session to abolish Enterprise Florida, the taxpayer-supported, public-private entity that uses economic incentives to lure companies to Florida. The future of the program is unclear three weeks into session.

Previous coverage: Leaving Rick Scott in lurch, Enterprise Florida CEO resigns after just 2 months on job

However, Gov. Rick Scott has been on a relentless push to save both Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, the state's tourism marketing arm. In his latest move to bolster the two programs, Scott is coming to the Allen Sports Center in Seminole Wednesday morning to host a "Fighting for Florida Jobs" roundtable with business owners, economic development leaders, tourism leaders, and community members.

Parrish said Florida has had "a really good run" with job creation, but deemed the future as fragile. The move to end Enterprise Florida "is absolutely costing us jobs and will cost us jobs in the future," he said. "This will affect us for the next couple of years."

Parrish estimates that the state will need 800,000 new jobs by 2020 and 2 million by 2030 to keep up with rapid population growth.

The Florida Scorecard showed that the unemployment rate in Florida has increased this year by about 5 percent. Consumer sentiment is declining.

In Hillsborough County, the unemployment rate is rising to 4.9 percent, but otherwise the county is growing at a rapid rate. The number of building permits filed are up as well as sales tax revenue. The county has added nearly 19,000 new jobs year over year.

In Pinellas, the unemployment rate is 4.8 percent but is rising. The number of housing permits is up and signals a boost in new construction. Pinellas County added more than 13,000 new jobs year over year.

The unemployment rate in Pasco County is the highest in Tampa Bay this year at 5.7 percent. However, the county has seen a similar trend of a boost in new housing permits and growing sales revenue. Pasco added just over 6,000 new jobs year over year.

"We don't need to invest more, we need to invest smarter," said Mark Wilson, president and CEO of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. "It's a very hostile environment right now. Job creation shouldn't be partisan."

Contact Justine Griffin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin

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