Florida's Department of Economic Opportunity recently released unemployment numbers, as it does the third Friday of every month (except March). The most common misconception surrounding these reports is that unemployed people include only those individuals who receive re-employment assistance, or RA, formerly known as unemployment compensation. In fact, the definition of an unemployed person is anyone who is without a job but is actively seeking work.
Collecting RA benefits is not a requirement for being counted as unemployed. Also, recent changes in Florida RA law do not impact the estimated number of unemployed. The number of unemployed is derived from a household survey collected by the U.S. Census Bureau combined with economic modeling.
Another misconception regarding these figures is that the sole reason for the drop in the unemployment rate and labor force is due to discouraged workers. While some people become discouraged and do stop looking for work, there are many factors that contribute to the decrease in the labor force, including retirement, disability, returning to school or staying home for child care.
The fact is that Florida's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 8.6 percent represents 795,000 jobless out of a labor force of more than 9 million people. The good news is that the rate has been below 10 percent for seven consecutive months and is the lowest since December 2008.
Hunting F. Deutsch, executive director, Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, Tallahassee
Hillsborough: Rays talk okay | Aug. 1
Don't respond to threats
I believe the Rays need a new stadium. I also agree with St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster's current stand.
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig's playbook always includes empty threats to move a team. The best way to counter threats is exactly what Foster has done: Ignore them and stand your ground.
The history of stadium construction for major-league sports suggests that taxpayers are going to be on the hook for a massive amount of money, enough to make the Pier debate look like a speed bump.
If Major League Baseball wants the Rays to have a new stadium, then don't threaten us; come up with a credible plan and open a true dialogue.
Dale Kitt, St. Petersburg
Worry about Bucs first
Maybe Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Ken Hagan and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn should be more concerned with filling the Bucs stadium, in Tampa, now that football season is almost upon us. If they can't fill a Bucs game, what makes them think they can do any better with our Rays?
Patricia Cook, St. Petersburg
Affordable Care Act
Benefits start to flow
One of the major problems with the Affordable Care Act is that so many people know so little about it. Aug. 1 was an important day for women. It marked the rollout of the act's package of preventive and diagnostic care that must now be included without co-pays or deductibles as a part of every policy provided to employees by their employer.
Forty-seven million women have access starting Aug. 1 to eight new prevention-related health care services without paying more out of their own pocket. These include cancer screenings, domestic violence screenings, FDA-approved contraception, breast feeding counseling and supplies.
Ramon Navarro, Riverview
New push for treatment
Pancreatic cancer's five-year survival rate of just 6 percent has not improved substantially in over 40 years since the passage of the National Cancer Act. Since my mother's diagnosis in January 2010 and my getting involved as a volunteer for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, I have met countless individuals who have lost loved ones within as short a time as two weeks after diagnosis.
The recent death of Sally Ride, who lost her 17-month battle with pancreatic cancer, shines a spotlight on this devastating killer. An estimated 43,920 new cases will be diagnosed in the United States this year.
With help from Congress, those statistics can change. The Pancreatic Cancer Research and Education Act (S 362/HR 733) would put a long-term, comprehensive strategic research plan in place to develop effective treatment options and ultimately give those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a fighting chance. The bill is currently being debated and has strong bipartisan support, with 59 Senate co-sponsors and 279 House co-sponsors.
I hope all those inspired by Sally Ride will honor her memory by joining the fight against pancreatic cancer.
Tracy Carnevalini, St. Petersburg
House okays bill on tainted water | Aug. 1
Doing the right thing at last
I am glad that the House of Representatives did the right thing and passed the Janey Ensminger Act ensuring the Marines and their families will receive health care. I am sad that it took the life of a 9-year-old girl for the United States to do the right thing and no longer try to cover up the deaths and illnesses from tainted water at Camp Lejeune. The people involved should be held accountable.
The Tampa Bay Times brought to light the nefarious actions of the Marine Corps failing to take action when they first knew the water was contaminated. Kudos to the Times for discovering the dirty secret that the Marine Corps tried to hide.
Chuck Haley, New Port Richey
Gold for history | Aug. 1
Grace under pressure
Congratulations to the "Fab Five" in winning the gold medal at the London Olympics in the women's team gymnastics competition.
While watching the performance of these young ladies, I was struck by how cool, calm and collected they were in performing their sequences of agile and athletic routines, especially on the 4-inch-wide beam, in an arena filled with continuous crowd noise and distractions from other competing athletes.
Compare this to a bunch of spoiled grown men, being paid many thousands of dollars, who can't hit a golf ball if distracted by the click of a camera or the movement of a spectator in their sight line.
Peter Hickin, Tampa
Subject: Schools chief hunt plods ahead Aug. 1
Lost in the search
Commitment to the "process"? What about the School Board's commitment to the students, teachers and taxpayers of Pinellas County to find and hire the best qualified person to become the next superintendent?
If the board is unhappy with the selection, why are they wasting these people's time and our money? It seems the board is content to repeat past mistakes and hire someone who is unqualified, only to terminate this person a few years later with a substantial severance package.
I hope the voters of Pinellas County are following this and make their feelings known at election time.
Don Sarvis, Safety Harbor
Top education official resigns | Aug. 1
He won't be missed
It's the failed education policies of the past 14 years that are the problem. We can't make "chicken salad" out of the FCAT, as the old saying goes.
Also, whom will Jeb Bush hire next? Yes, Jeb. Kathleen Shanahan, chair of the Board of Education, is Bush's "right hand."
Let's hope Gerard Robinson's replacement actually wants to save the public education system and not sell it off.
Gary Gibbons, Tampa
Skeptic finds global warming is real | July 31
The report that physics professor Richard Muller determined that global warming is real and that "humans are almost entirely the cause" is significant because Muller was a climate change skeptic whose research was funded by the Koch brothers.
Now that someone of the stature of Muller has completed this research and admitted he was wrong to deny the existence of global warming, this needs to be an issue that we call upon our politicians to address. As Muller stated, "If we're the cause, then we can do something about it."
Most politicians have stopped talking about this issue, perhaps because the wealthy and powerful climate change deniers have been able to use their money to sway politics and public opinion. The longer we postpone serious action on this issue the more we increase the risk that we will be unable to reverse the process of global warming.
Mary Bright, Tampa