Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) has been touting his state’s dropping unemployment rate, which is down to 8.8 percent from a high of 11.1 percent in December 2010. The Romney campaign even asked Scott to “tone down” his positive message about Florida’s improving economy because it clashed with Mitt Romney’s message that President Obama has made the economy worse. But according to Florida’s top economist, the outlook isn’t quite so sunny.
Amy Baker, the Florida Legislature’s chief economist, found that the two-point drop in the state’s unemployment rate is almost entirely attributable to people dropping out of the workforce while job creation has been sluggish. Only a week ago, Scott said that “every economic indicator we have is good,” but when Bloomberg reporter Michael Bender tried to question Scott about the report, the governor dismissed the scrutiny, according to the Miami Herald:
Reporter: “Are you saying those numbers from the state economist are wrong, Governor?”
Scott: “I’m saying we generated 130,000 jobs.”
Reporter: “But that’s not all of the—“
Scott: “Mike, I’ve answered all your questions on that.”
Reporter: “But, no, my question is about the unemployment rate drop—“
Scott: “Mike! I said I’ve answered all your questions.”
Scott ran for governor on the slogan “Let’s get to work,” promising to create 700,000 jobs in addition to normal job growth. Last year, he walked back that campaign pledge after killing thousands of jobs in the state. “I don’t know who said that,” Scott said when asked about the promise.
Labor participation in Florida has fallen to 60 percent, the lowest rate since 1986, and Baker reported that Florida’s unemployment rate would be closer to 10.1 percent if workforce participation had not shrunk. But as Scott dodged reporters’ questions about the number of unemployed workers, he stuck by his lines that the state’s economy is doing fine. “Indicators are very good in our state,” he said. “Biggest drop in unemployment in our state. Tourism is up, exports are up, home prices are up, home sales are up, new home construction is up.”