Sunday, May 20, 2018
Politics

PolitiFact: Rick Scott brags about Florida's declining unemployment rate

The competitive businessman in Gov. Rick Scott wants Florida to be No. 1 for jobs.

By most measures, it's not, and in at least one area, it's dead last.

But what about its declining unemployment rate?

Scott often points to this measure as evidence the state is headed in the right direction. In August, when monthly jobs numbers showed the state lost 3,300 jobs and the unemployment rate ticked up to 8.8 percent, Scott's office found something nice to trumpet: Over the past 20 months (when Scott took office), the unemployment rate fell faster in Florida than in any other state.

Scott repeated the claim a month later at a board meeting of Enterprise Florida, the official economic development organization of the state of Florida.

"We have every reason to brag about what's going on in our state," he said. "If you look at the fastest drop in unemployment, it's down 2.3 (percentage points) in the last 20 months."

We've heard conflicting reports about Florida's job creation record, so Scott's argument that the state's falling unemployment rate is brag-worthy piqued our interest.

His math is right. Since December 2010, the month before he took office, it has fallen 2.3 percentage points to 8.8 percent.

Is the decline really good for Florida, though?

Economists don't share Scott's sunny perspective. Cheering the decline overlooks the real reason for it: a labor force contracted by the departure of thousands of workers, many of whom simply gave up looking for work.

"What we're seeing is that our participation in the labor force is declining," said Amy Baker, the Florida Legislature's top economist. "And because it's declining, that's really leading to much of the improvement — in the month of July, about 91 percent of the improvement — in the unemployment rate."

A September report by Baker's team at the Office of Economic and Demographic Research highlighted the same trend: dropping unemployment rate caused not by job creation, but almost exclusively by a shrinking workforce. People tend to leave the labor force when they become discouraged with the process of trying to find work.

Florida ranks last in the nation when it comes to long-term unemployment, so economists say the shrinking labor force is a natural result. More than half of the 816,000 jobless people in Florida have been looking for work for six months or more, a national record, according to a recent Florida International University study.

Absent the labor pool's contraction, the unemployment rate would be 9.8 percent, Baker's report found. A report from Scott's Department of Economic Opportunity found that if the state's 94,100 discouraged workers were added to the unemployment rolls, the jobless rate would be 9.7 percent.

That's because Florida's job growth rate has been mediocre when compared with other states. The state has added 69,900 jobs in the past 12 months, a growth rate of less than 1 percent. This growth is slower than the national pace; Florida ranks 28th in the nation.

It's not always a good sign when a state sees a rapid decline in the unemployment rate, said Sean Snaith, an economist with the University of Central Florida.

"You need strong economic growth to bring down rapidly the unemployment rate in the way we want to see it decline, and we haven't seen that strong economic growth," he said. "This is the contradiction in the unemployment rate: Just because it's going down doesn't mean it's good news."

Our ruling

Scott reassured Florida's economic development leaders, "We have every reason to brag about what's going on in our state."

We found his example of the plummeting unemployment rate over 20 months is not something to tout.

Experts say the reasons behind the drop are mostly grim: Thousands of discouraged workers have given up on finding work in Florida.

The shrinking workforce can be attributed to a number of factors, but the fact that Florida is last in the nation when it comes to long-term unemployment can't be ignored. A major factor in the drop in unemployment is the exodus of people who have simply given up looking for work. Job creation, meanwhile, has been below-average.

So is the unemployment rate decline a positive economic sign for Florida? We say Mostly False.

PolitiFact Florida is partnering with 10 News for the 2012 election. See video fact-checks at PolitiFact.com.

Comments
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offere...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Updated: 6 hours ago
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18
GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

WASHINGTON — Republicans are pushing for a speedy confirmation vote as early as Thursday after the Senate intelligence committee endorsed President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. But opponents concerned about Haspel’s ...
Published: 05/16/18
Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

WASHINGTON - The Senate Intelligence Committee moved Wednesday to recommend Gina Haspel for CIA director, setting up a floor vote that her opponents say will signal to the world whether the United States condemns or condones torture.The committee vot...
Published: 05/16/18
Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

In Hillsborough County — where one of the world’s largest Confederate flags still flies near a busy interstate — you may not be surprised to learn there’s an Uncle Tom Road.The name is a flash point and a slur, shorthand for a black person who will d...
Published: 05/16/18
Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell drops out of Pinellas Commission race

Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell drops out of Pinellas Commission race

With six months to go before the Nov. 6 election, Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell on Monday dropped her bid against Pinellas County Commissioner Pat Gerard for the at-large District 2 seat.Caudell said she decided she’d better be better suited f...
Published: 05/14/18
Romano: Hey Gov. Scott, could you hire me, too?

Romano: Hey Gov. Scott, could you hire me, too?

To: The Honorable Gov. Rick ScottDear Governor,It has come to my attention that your administration has recently made some, dare I say, innovative hires for important government positions in the months before you leave office.At the risk of sounding ...
Published: 05/14/18