Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) faced a tough line of questioning at a press conference Tuesday, eventually shutting down a reporter who was seeking answers on the specifics of the state's unemployment numbers.
Scott has frequently touted Florida's shrinking unemployment rate as a measure of his success leading the state. Joblessness in Florida has fallen from 10.9 percent when Scott took office in January 2011 to its current level of 8.8 percent. But according to a recent report by Amy Baker, the Florida legislature’s chief economist, the drop is due almost exclusively to a shrinking workforce, as unemployed people give up looking for job and are taken out of the worker pool.
On Tuesday, Bloomberg reporter Michael Bender sought to pin Scott down on the recent findings just days after Scott's administration continued to brag about having overseen "the fastest drop in unemployment" of any state, despite a recent uptick in jobless numbers last month.
A transcript of the exchange, from the Miami Herald:
Reporter: “Are you saying those numbers from the state economist are wrong, Governor?”
Scott: “I’m saying we generated 130,000 jobs.”
Reporter: “But that’s not all of the—“
Scott: “Mike, I’ve answered all your questions on that.”
Reporter: “But, no, my question is about the unemployment rate drop—“
Scott: “Mike! I said I’ve answered all your questions.”
While Scott appears to argue that his chart from the Department of Labor tells Bender everything he need to know about his success in creating jobs in Florida, many reports have disagreed with the governor.
PolitiFact Florida recently analyzed Scott's boasting and found that the numbers he's choosing to put forward don't come close to telling the whole picture:
Florida ranks last in the nation when it comes to long-term unemployment, so economists say the shrinking labor force is a natural result. More than half of the 816,000 jobless people in Florida have been looking for work for six months or more, a new national record, according to a recent Florida International University study.
"The conditions of the labor market have been dire for so long that many people have dropped out of the labor force," reads the FIU report, which highlights several areas where Florida’s recovery is lagging the national pace. "Labor force participation rates keep plummeting even though we are three years into the recovery."
Absent the labor pool’s contraction, the unemployment rate would be 9.8 percent, Baker’s report found. A report from Scott's Department of Economic Opportunity found that if the state's 94,100 discouraged workers were added to the unemployment rolls, the jobless rate would be 9.7 percent.
On top of these figures, Florida ranks only 28th in the nation in job growth, adding 69,900 jobs over the last year. With a growth rate of less than 1 percent, Florida is moving at slower than the national pace.