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Scott spins subpar economic data into 'reason to brag'

Gov. Rick Scott continued to tout a drop in Florida’s unemployment rate Thursday, despite objective data from economists that say the reduction is nothing to celebrate.

We covered this dissonance yesterday, and last month, so check out the full fact-check here

Specifically, Scott grabbed two data points that actually indicate an underperforming economy, and used them to boost his record.

“We have every reason to brag about what’s going on in our state,” he said. “We have the fastest drop in unemployment, it’s down 2.3 percent in the last 20 months… The number of people on unemployment (aid) has dropped about 40 percent. “

We’ve previously covered why the unemployment rate statistics are nothing to brag about.

The Florida Legislature’s chief economist summed it up yesterday during a Legislative Budget Commission meeting.

“What we’re seeing is that our participation in the labor force is declining,” said Amy Baker, pointing out that the unemployment rate would be 9.8 percent without the contraction in the workforce. “And because it’s declining, that’s really leading to… much of the improvement in the unemployment rate.”

Economists say people tend to leave the labor force when they give up on searching for work. Florida is ranked last in the nation when it comes to long-term unemployment, so economists say the shrinking labor force is a natural result.

What about the 40 percent drop in those receiving unemployment aid?

More than 250,000 people have been kicked off unemployment benefits under Scott, not because they found jobs but because they expired their benefits. That has helped the unemployment aid rolls to shrink from 568,000  to 320,000. Ten of thousands of other people seeking jobless aid have been rejected, after Scott and the Legislature made it more difficult to apply. Florida ranks last in the nation in getting unemployment benefits to the jobless.

Scott also pointed to increases in tourism and a reduction in the state’s debt load—achievements which are more closely rooted in reality.

Scott was speaking before Enterprise Florida, the state’s official economic development arm responsible for leading the effort to provide taxpayer incentives to private companies

He did not mention the Digital Domain debacle, which has been all over the news this week after an animation studio went bankrupt, taking more than $100 million in government incentives with it.

Enterprise Florida spent the board meeting embracing the theme “We have every reason to brag about what’s going on in our state.” The board did not mention that job creation in Florida is lagging the national rate, long-term unemployment here is the worst in the nation or that personal income is falling

Enterprise Florida kicked off the meeting by dashing out $427,500 in bonus pay to its staff, and the maximum $70,000 bonus to its CEO, Gray Swoope, boosting his $230,000 annual salary.

Swoope summed it up last month during a speech to the Economic Club of Florida.

“As any as you know, statistically, the story that you want (to tell), you grab a statistic to support,” he said. “I don’t care who you are, what you’re doing… you can do that and support your story.”