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EDR report says Florida's real unemployment drop is closer to .3 percent

Gov. Rick Scott was asked today why the lastest Quinnipiac poll numbers keep showing his public approval rating dropping below 40 percent. He didn't answer but pivoted to the unemployment numbers, which he touts as dropping faster than the national average.

“The number that I look at every month is our unemployment rate and as you know we’re bucking a national trend,''Scott told reporters today. "We’ve come down 2.5 percent in the last several months. The federal number is down .8 or .9 percent…The month of May, the federal numbers got worse and our got better."

A new analysis of Florida's Economic Trends, by the legislature's offices of Economic and Demographic Research, reveals that the governor's take on things may be technically accurate but practically very misleading. In a slide titled "Labor Force Reduction Accounts for Most of the Rate Drop,'' the state's top economists note that "75 percent of the drop in the unemployment rate is due to people dropping out of the labor force."

Put in true perspective, the fact that the unemployment rate dropped from 9.9 percent in December 2011 to 8.7 percent in April 2012 may be a change of 1.2 percent but the state's economists say there is something important to add: "If the participation rate had held steady since 12/11, the unemployment rate would have been 9.6 percent." That's more like a .3 percent decline.

Meanwhile, a national worker's rights group is suing the state because it believes there's another reason why Florida's unemployment rate is dropping: because the state has one of the most restrictive unemployment compensation programs in the country.

Why doesn't the governor give people the true context and note that the unemployment number does not reflect the true number of people out of work? We weren't allowed to ask the governor directly, so we asked his spokesman Lane Wright. He said the governor is just comparing the state's record to other states.

"This is the same information that is provided by every other state,'' he said. "These are the facts."

He then suggested that many people may have left the labor force for reasons other than unemployment and EDR doesn't know why.

"Do you know why they’re out of work? Have you interviewed those people?,'' Wright asked. "You can make an assumption as to why they’ve dropped out.

"If you want to say it’s just because they couldn’t find a job so they dropped out -- how many of those people are mothers who decided they just want to stay at home and let their husbands provide for the family? They didn’t need to work. Do you know how many mothers qualify and have dropped out of the unemployment rolls? How many have retired? How many of those are baby boomers that have retired?"