PolitiFact Florida: Unemployment rate is down, but jobs numbers look bad for Rick Scott

Published Mar. 14, 2012

Yes, Florida's unemployment rate dropped to 9.6 percent in January — its lowest point since March 2009.

But the news isn't so great for Gov. Rick Scott, who made creating 700,000 jobs in seven years his top campaign promise.

Even though the state's unemployment rate is down, actual job numbers are down, too — 38,600 jobs lost in January, economists reported Tuesday. The good-news, bad-news numbers are largely because the two statistics measure different things.

For Scott, the bottom line is this: The state created 77,100 jobs from January 2011 through January 2012. The number's even lower — 54,200 jobs — if you exclude the month Scott was sworn into office. Either measure is far short of the deal Scott made with voters who elected him in 2010, when he said he would create 700,000 jobs in seven years. PolitiFact Florida continues to rate his promise Stalled.

Scott, who celebrated a rosy December jobs report with a conference call, did not take reporters' questions Tuesday. Instead, his office issued a statement that focused on the unemployment drop but not the job creation numbers:

"It's great to see Florida's economy is trending in the right direction and our unemployment rate is the lowest in three years," Scott said in the statement.

During the campaign, Scott proposed a seven-step plan that he said would lead to the creation of 700,000 jobs. When asked by reporters, Scott said those jobs would be in addition to the jobs economists predicted would be created naturally — by either population growth or growth in the overall economy.

But Scott flip-flopped months into office, announcing in October that he would rely "on actual job growth each month."

Now even that modified promise is looking shaky.

Originally, employment data measured by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics helped Scott claim that he added 130,000 jobs in 2011.

That outlook was different after economists crunched the data again. The 2011 net jobs created was really 115,700, according to revised data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And in January 2012, the state lost 38,600 nonfarm jobs — the largest drop in the country.

We should note that January 2012 numbers are preliminary and that previous job losses reported for January 2010 and January 2011 were later reported as job gains. Economists revisit the monthly jobs data, which is initially based on a survey, and compare the survey with tax forms. Fixes are often necessary.

Still, economists say that since Scott took office, the state has added 77,100 jobs — or 54,200 jobs — depending on when you start counting. That's miles short of the pace he needs to keep his original promise. It's also now shy of even the revised promise he made in October.

Either way, this promise remains Stalled.

Times/Herald staff writer Toluse Olorunnipa contributed to this report.