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PolitiFact Florida | Tampa Bay Times
Sorting out the truth in state politics

PolitiFact: Democrats cherry pick Rick Scott's jobs record

Gov. Rick Scott vowed to cut the state payroll by 5 percent.

Gov. Rick Scott vowed to cut the state payroll by 5 percent.

On the eve of Gov. Rick Scott's third State of the State address, Florida Democrats released a lengthy memo detailing setbacks for job creation under his reign.

"After cutting more jobs than he created in Florida in 2012, failing to keep his promise to create 700,000 new jobs and a disastrous election year where the Florida GOP 'got their teeth kicked in,' Gov. Rick Scott is running away from everything he campaigned on to get re-elected," wrote Scott Arceneaux, the party's executive director.

PolitiFact Florida is monitoring the central promise of Scott's 2010 campaign — creating 700,000 jobs over seven years — on the Scott-O-Meter, where it is rated Stalled. The state has experienced positive job growth since Scott took office in January 2011, but not at the rate that he would need to meet his pledge.

With that in mind, the Democrats' claim that Scott cut "more jobs than he created" sounded like it needed another look.

We should note first that it's not right to give Scott credit (or blame) for all job growth (or losses) that happens while he is governor. Economic experts have told us that governors usually have little influence on short-term economic performance in their states. Often, national trends and general economic circumstances overwhelm the actions of a single governor.

On the other hand, public officials do have control over the size of the state workforce, and Scott made no secret of his desire to shrink the state payroll during his campaign. He said he would cut state jobs by 5 percent, a pledge we rated Promise Kept on the Scott-O-Meter.

But did he weed out state worker jobs at such a rate that it overtook private-sector growth? Put simply, no.

In his memo, Arceneaux zeroed in on private versus state government jobs in 2012.

"Since the beginning of 2012, Florida has added 7,800 private-sector jobs, but has cut 9,600 public-sector jobs," he states in the memo, which offers an August 2012 report from the state's Department of Economic Opportunity as backup.

We noticed one problem right away. Arceneaux claims to make an overarching point about job losses exceeding gains for all of 2012. But the supporting evidence deals with federal labor data available through mid August, accounting for just half of the year's jobs picture.

We asked Florida Democratic Party spokesman Eric Conrad to explain. He sent us a 2012 news story from the Orlando Sentinel, which quoted Rollins College economics professor William Seyfried as saying Florida added about 7,800 private-sector jobs while cutting about 9,600 government positions — this is key — so far that year.

Conrad said this was the most recent report the party had.

We found data for Florida jobs for all of 2012 from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Yes, 2012 was not kind to the state's job market for the first half, Seyfried said. But federal data show it picked up after August.

From December 2011 to December 2012, Florida lost 10,600 total government jobs. On the other hand, the state saw an increase of 65,600 private-sector jobs. Put them together and you get an overall non-farm jobs total of 54,900 jobs — a net gain, which belies Arceneaux's point.

"There's no way one can conclude that Florida experienced a net loss of jobs in 2012," Seyfried said.

Florida's 2012 economic performance mirrored the country's underwhelming job growth, said Sean Snaith, director of the University of Central Florida's Institute for Economic Competitiveness.

"They pick six months (of Florida jobs data) and they say nothing about the role the Democratic president has played in a slow national recovery," Snaith said.

Arceneaux's point is focused on the worst period of job growth the state experienced with Scott as governor. The state grew more than twice as many jobs in Scott's first year in office (122,900 private-sector jobs minus 7,200 government jobs equals 115,700 total nonfarm jobs). And by the end of 2012, Scott's job creation total continued to lag mightily behind his promise of 700,000 jobs but was up to 170,600.

Arceneaux tried to discredit Scott's influence on Florida's economy on the eve of his State of the State address. Putting the blame for job losses squarely on Scott's shoulders, Arceneaux said Scott cut "more jobs than he created in Florida in 2012."

This claim is a bad case of cherry-picking. The Democrats homed in on the state's bleakest period of job growth. Not only that, they held it up as a whole year's performance.

Yes, 2012 was sluggish for job growth, especially compared with 2011. But it was an increase nonetheless.

We rate the statement Pants on Fire!

This ruling has been edited for print. See more fact-checks at politifact.com/florida.

The statement

Says Gov. Rick Scott cut more government jobs than were created in the private sector in Florida in 2012.

Florida Democratic Party, in a memo "pre-butting" the State of the State address

The ruling

Politifact ruling: Pants on fire
The Democrats held up part of a year's job growth as a whole year's performance. The complete jobs numbers tell a very different story. We rate this Pants on Fire!

PolitiFact: Democrats cherry pick Rick Scott's jobs record 03/10/13 [Last modified: Sunday, March 10, 2013 10:58pm]
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