Focus on Manatee | A jobs' smoke and mirror argument

December 17, 2012 

It's that time of year when we assess how we are doing. Was 2012 a good year? What lies ahead in 2013?

Gov. Rick Scott apparently thinks 2012 has been pretty favorable in terms of job creation and fulfilling his pledge to create 700,000 jobs in seven years.

With Scott ending his second year in office, let's take a mid-term look of where he stands with his pledge.

In a recent "Setting the Record Straight" email, Scott's office took issue with a newspaper's statement that Florida's recent job-creation pace is not yet strong enough for Scott to be on track to meet his stated campaign goal.

In six facts that touted more hiring, increased confidence in the economy and the unemployment rate decline, Scott contended his job creation promise is well on its way to becoming a reality.

Ask an economist and you'll see another side to the story.

n Fact No. 1: Since December 2010, Florida created 174,500 jobs.

Even if you accept this figure -- which economist Stan Geberer has doubts about -- it still is short of the 700,000 he would need to reach his goal.

"It sounds high to me, and I'm not sure those are all new jobs," the Orlando economist with Fishkind & Associates said.

In a healthy economy, about 100,000 to 150,000 jobs a year are added, and Geberer says job creation in 2011 was somewhere around 70,000 to 80,000 -- much less than needed.

n Fact No. 2: Florida's hiring is accelerating. The unemployment rate dropped to 8.5 percent in October -- the lowest point since December 2010 and the largest drop in the country.

Hiring is accelerating, Geberer says, but the rate and volume of additional hiring has not appreciable improved in 2011 and 2012, he said.

n Fact No. 3: Florida's unemployment rate has declined year-over-year for 23 consecutive months and had the lowest drop in unemployment of any state since Gov. Scott took office. Economists say the real reason behind the drop is a shrinking workforce, not more people finding work. Discouraged and frustrated job seekers have just stopped trying to find work.

n Fact No. 4: A report from Florida's Legislature estimated that the state will create more than 900,000 new jobs by 2018.

Possible, economists say, but still just a prediction.

n Fact No. 5: Consumer confidence among Floridians is at or near a five-year high. People are optimistic about our economic situation which

translates into purchasing, investing, hiring and other business decisions that positively impact job growth.

"That's spin," Geberer says. "Sure, if you look back at where we were five years ago, when we were near depression levels, we are way above that. But I'm not sure that is optimistic."

Geberer and others were disappointed when Scott rejected federal funding for high-speed rail and Medicare.

"He based his decision on ideology rather than an economic decision," he said.

Tens of thousands of jobs that could have been created weren't.

"If this promise or policy is to be effective, than direct actions have to be taken to support it," Geberer said. "Our view would be direct actions taken to date has been counterproductive in that regard."

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