TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Tuesday cut off a journalist who tried to ask him about a report from a top state economist who said Floridas fall in unemployment is almost exclusively due to people leaving the workforce.
Mike! I said Ive answered all your questions, said Scott, briefly abandoning his normally laid-back demeanor and raising his voice in response to Bloomberg reporter Michael Bender.
The reporter had pointed out the findings of Amy Baker, the Florida Legislatures chief economist, which showed that Floridas unemployment rate is falling for a dire reason: a shrinking workforce.
For the past few months as Scott has touted the 2-point drop in the unemployment rate economists have pointed out that the rate is falling because people have given up on looking for work and arent being counted among unemployed. Job creation has been mediocre compared to other states, and is lagging behind the national growth rate.
Meanwhile, Scott who based his 2010 campaign and governorship on his ability to create jobs said last week that Every economic indicator we have is good.
As Scotts message has begun to diverge from that of economists and other state officials, media scrutiny has intensified.
When reporters questioned Scott about the unemployment rate on Tuesday, the governor became elusive and dismissive. Heres the partial exchange with Bender:
Reporter: Are you saying those numbers from the state economist are wrong, Governor?
Scott: Im saying we generated 130,000 jobs.
Reporter: But thats not all of the
Scott: Mike, Ive answered all your questions on that.
Reporter: But, no, my question is about the unemployment rate drop
Scott: Mike! I said Ive answered all your questions.
With reports on Floridas unemployment and poverty rates due out later this week, there is growing concern that the economic recovery may be slowing. So far this year, net job growth has been negative.
Even as the U.S. recovery remains tepid, unemployed people in Florida are having a harder time finding a new job than in any other place in the country, according to a recent study by Florida International University.
Floridas long-term unemployment rate, however, has continued to rise in 2011, reaching record-high rates and making it number one among states, reads the FIU report. No state has ever had a long-term unemployment rate as high as Floridas, which was 53.0% in 2011.
The report found that Floridas recovery began to fall behind the national recovery in early 2011, shortly after Scott took office.
Baker found that if workforce participation hadnt shrunk from January 2011 levels, Floridas unemployment rate would be 10.1 percent. It is currently 8.8 percent, down from 11.1 percent in December 2010.
The labor participation rate has fallen to 60 percent, the lowest since 1986.
Though Scott opted against answering specific questions about the falling workforce, he stood by his positive portrayal of the states economy.
Indicators are very good in our state, he said. Biggest drop in unemployment in our state. Tourism is up, exports are up, home prices are up, home sales are up, new home construction is up.