Gov. Rick Scott in his re-election campaign has sought to portray Florida’s economy as singularly powered by job creation, and to take credit for that job creation. The numbers tell a different story. Florida’s unemployment rate has closely tracked the national rate, exceeding it for a few years at the height of the Great Recession, then then paralleling it since late 2012. As with the national economy, Florida’s economy has created jobs, but at a slower pace than in previous recoveries.
Two weeks ago the U.S. Department of Labor announced that the August unemployment rate dropped by a mere decimal point, to 6.1 percent. Today, Florida’s labor department announced that the state’s unemployment rate ticked up by a decimal point, to 6.3 percent. It’s the first time since early 2013 that Florida’s rate has been larger than the national rate by more more than a decimal point.
The number of unemployed Floridians rose by 4,000, to 602,000, and the number of Floridians with jobs fell by 6,000. Despite those figures, Scott found a way to tout the August unemployment figures. “Today we have some great news for Florida families,” he said Friday. “In the month of August the private sector added over 23,000 jobs. That means since the day I took office, the private sector has added over 643,000 jobs.” (The private sector gains were not enough to overcome the net decline in jobs.)
Charlie Crist, the Democratic candidate for governor, immediately issued a statement of his own criticizing Scott’s policies. “The latest jobs report and recent reports on Florida falling behind the rest of the nation in income demonstrate the reality of Rick Scott’s high cost, low wage economy,” Crist said in the release.
The News Service of Florida reports that “Industries helping drive Florida’s gains in the past year have been tied to food and beverage stores, employment services, ambulatory health-care services, insurance carriers, fabricated metal product manufacturing, telecommunications and local government, according to the Department of Economic Opportunity. The U.S. Census Bureau released figures Thursday indicating that one in five Floridians works in either education or health care, while another fifth were in service-related jobs. Meanwhile, one out of every 7.5 Florida workers is in retail, a figure that ties Arkansas for the highest in the nation.”
In Flagler County, the unemployment rate went up also by a decimal point, to 9.5 percent. The rate had fallen as low as 8.3 percent in April.
While the number of unemployed people in Flagler rose by just 21, to 3,404 people, the number of people with jobs fell by 207, and the labor force, an indicator of local economic vitality, fell by 186 after rising in previous months. But the labor force remains higher than it was a year ago, by more than 800 workers, as do the number of people with jobs–by 1,119–suggesting that the long-term trends are still brighter.
Flagler County, however, stubbornly is holding on to its distinction as the county with the second-worst unemployment rate in the state, after Hendry County, and the Palm Coast metropolitan area still tops the state’s metropolitan areas in that category. Monroe County’s 3.9 unemployment rate is the healthiest in the state, followed by Walon at 4 percent and Okaloosa at 4.9 percent.
Several industries added jobs modestly in August, including construction, manufacturing, information technology and administrative and waste services. Job losers included educational services, leisure and hospitality, real estate, state and local government.