Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday cut off a reporter who tried to ask him about a report from a top state economist who said Florida’s drop in unemployment is almost exclusively due to people dropping out of the workforce.
The question pointed out that the Florida Legislature’s top economist has regularly said that unemployment is dropping in Florida due to a shrinking workforce, not job creation.
That message is in stark contrast with Scott’s message—which is that Florida’s unemployment rate drop (the nation’s largest over the last 20 months)—is on the decline due to an improving economy.
When a Bloomberg reporter asked Scott what happened to the people no longer looking for work, Scott pivoted by pointing out that the state has created 130,000 private sector jobs under his new watch. Then he shut down the questioner.
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Here’s the transcript:
Reporter: Where are those people, Governor? You’ve seen the state numbers showing that most of the unemployment rate drop is due to people no longer looking for work. What are they doing? Governor Scott: That's not true. Mike, look at the chart (points to chart), look at the Department of Revenue numbers—130,000 jobs. That’s 130,000 families that now have work that didn’t have it before.
Reporter: But most of the unemployment rate drop—
Governor Scott: 130,000 jobs, Mike. (Turns to take another question from another reporter.) Go ahead.
[Later in the press conference]
Reporter: Are you saying those numbers from the state economist are wrong, Governor?
Governor Scott: I’m saying we generated 130,000 jobs.
Reporter: But that’s not all of the—
Governor Scott: Mike, I’ve answered all your questions on that.
Reporter: But, no, my question is about the unemployment rate drop—
Governor Scott: (voice raised) Mike! I said I’ve answered all your questions.
As economists question Florida’s record on job creation under Scott, media reports are increasingly taking into account the main factor behind the falling unemployment rate: a shrinking workforce.
In Florida, the average person has been unemployed for nearly a year, and long-term unemployment is worse in Florida than in any state, ever.
With more than 400,000 people unemployed for more than six months, economists say it makes sense that more than 100,000 discouraged workers have given up looking for work.
When reporters began to ask Scott questions about Florida’s slow economic recovery, he became somewhat elusive, answering substantive questions with terse responses like “I think we’re headed in the right direction.”
When the reporter tried to pin him down about the unemployment rate, the governor who made his campaign and governorship almost exclusively about job creation, flatly refused to answer the follow-up questions about job creation.
Florida’s August unemployment numbers come out on Friday.