Posted February 3, 2014 06:35 pm

Rick Scott dodges questions about shrinking labor force fueling half of unemployment rate drop


Gov. Rick Scott’s top campaign talking-point is that the economy is improving and the state’s unemployment rate has shrunk to 6.2 percent, down from roughly 11 percent when he took office.

The number, though, is fueled in large part by people leaving the labor force, according to a report released last month. People not actively seeking employment are considered to have dropped out of the labor force and are not counted in the unemployment figures.

Florida’s unemployment rate would be 8.5 percent if the number of people looking for work was at the same level as Jan. 2011 when Scott took office.

“53.1 percent of the drop in the unemployment rate is due to people dropping out of the labor force or delaying entrance,” according to a monthly report released last week by the Office of Economic and Demographic Research.  

[Here's a link to the report. Slide 6 deals with participation rate]

EDR is the Legislature’s economic research arm.

Florida’s participation rate is at 59.6 percent, below the 25-year average of 62.4. Nationally, the participation rate sits at 62.8 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Factors like Florida’s large retirement population often leads Florida’s participation rate to lag behind the national number.

Though often eager to talk about the economy in speeches and during media availabilities, when asked about the state’s shrinking labor force Monday, Scott restated talking points his office regularly uses, but did not address the specific question.

Scott’s economic talking points almost now always begin with “the four years before I took office,” a jab at former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist, who is now seeking his old job as a Democrat.

During those four years, the state lost more than 800,000 jobs. Scott has blamed Crist, while the former Republican governor has started firing back that the overall economic collapse of the mid-2000s was caused by "guys like" Scott.

"The recession wasn't caused by me or by you," Crist said in a web ad released Monday. "You know who caused it...guys like Rick Scott."

The ad terms people like Scott "greedy wall street bankers and corporate takeover artists." 

Here's some more labor force background from a TU story in September.