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Scott touts drop in unemployment, though raw numbers show little to celebrate

Gov. Rick Scott celebrated his job-creation record Wednesday, with a new chart showing Florida’s unemployment rate has fallen faster than any other state over the last 21 months.

As presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney reminds voters that Florida has one of the nation’s highest unemployment rates and job creation here is lagging the national pace, Scott’s message remains markedly different. The two will both give primetime speeches during the Republican National Convention next week, and Scott said he doesn’t plan to change his optimistic messaging about Florida during his speech.

“Since December 2010, Florida’s unemployment rate has dropped 2.3 percentage points, more than any other state in the nation,” Scott’s office said in a release. “At 8.8 percent in July 2012, the rate is down from 11.1 percent in December 2010 just before Governor Scott was inaugurated.”

Scott, Romney and Pres. Obama all have a stake in the messaging around Florida’s economy, and each offers a different take on how the state is doing, and who deserves the credit/blame. 

Thankfully, we have data to help parse through all the rhetoric.

 Here’s what the raw numbers say about Scott’s claim that unemployment has fallen faster in Florida than any other state.

 First, Scott appears to be taking credit for an unemployment rate that began dropping before he took the oath of office, and much before he signed any bills into law.

Florida’s unemployment rate was already on the decline before Scott took office. The decline has accelerated this year, but only because thousands of Floridians have given up looking for work. 

The Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research has repeatedly said in recent reports that nearly 70 percent of the drop in Florida’s unemployment rate can be attributed to a shrinking workforce, not new jobs. “If the [workforce] had held steady since 12/11 the unemployment rate would have been 9.5 percent,” a report released last week found.

That’s because Florida’s job creation record over the last year has been mediocre at best when ranked against other states.

Florida has added 69,000 net jobs over the last year, a growth rate of 1 percent that lags behind the national growth rate.

Other high-population states have added far more jobs in the last year: California (+365,100), Texas (+222,500), New York (+113,300). Some states with smaller populations than Florida have outpaced the Sunshine state in net job creation (e.g., Ohio: +100,300).

So Florida’s status as the “state with the fastest drop in the unemployment,” while technically true, clouds a more accurate picture of the state as an also-ran when it comes to net job creation.

Scott's Press release, which also highlights Florida's efforts on international trade, is below:

Tallahassee, Fla. – Florida continues to see evidence that Governor Rick Scott’s strategy for growing private-sector jobs is the right direction for Florida’s economy. 

Since December 2010, Florida’s unemployment rate has dropped 2.3 percentage points, more than any other state in the nation. At 8.8 percent in July 2012, the rate is down from 11.1 percent in December 2010 just before Governor Scott was inaugurated. 

“Overall, Florida’s long-term trend is positive,” Governor Scott said.  “Florida companies have added 130,300 more private sector jobs than we had in December 2010.  We are focused on making Florida the best place to grow private-sector jobs.”

In addition, a London business magazine, fDi, this week named Florida as having the best strategy for promoting foreign investment. (See story here.) The magazine recognized Governor Scott’s proactive approach, as well as his persistent efforts to directly contact CEOs to encourage business investment in Florida. Governor Scott was also ranked fourth in overall rankings of the magazine’s inaugural Governor's Award for 2012.

“As Governor, I’ve led six trade and business development missions with the single purpose of increasing Florida’s international investment and trade and getting Florida back on the right track,” Governor Scott said. “As more companies invest in Florida, there will be more jobs for Floridians.”