Evaluating Governor Scott's Jobs Claims

Sep 9, 2013

Gov. Rick Scott is pulling out all the stops to lure companies to Florida. He convinced lawmakers to cut the sales tax cut on manufacturing equipment and do away with regulations that could hinder economic growth.  Now, Scott is contacting business executives in other states and urging them to book a one-way ticket to Florida.

Scott says his efforts are working and the unemployment numbers prove it. He is making the rounds, as new businesses open or relocate to Florida. He helped open this Bass Pro Shop in Tallahassee last week.

“We have 200 new jobs right here in Tallahassee”, Scott said.

The economy looks much better now than it did when Scott took office two and a half years ago. Home sales are picking up, and Florida’s unemployment rate is down to 7.1%. That the lowest it’s been in 5 years, and it’s better than much of the country. Scott was happy to tout the numbers in a video released by the Governor’s Office.

“We’re below the national average. This is a stark contrast to the four years before I became governor. In those four years, the state lost 832,000 jobs and unemployment went from 3.5% to 11.1%.”

Scott says he is more than halfway to fulfilling his promise to create 700,000 jobs in seven years. The Tampa Bay Times PolitiFact team rated that claim mostly false.

PolitiFact researcher Katie Sanders says it is true that the state has added around 350,000 jobs since Scott took office.

“However, we hold him to the standard he asked us to hold him to when he was on the campaign trail", said Sanders. "He clarified that his 700,000 jobs in 7 years would be on top of normal growth.”

PolitiFact rated Scott’s claim mostly false because so far, it appears the state is adding jobs at the rate economists predicted. They said we would add about a million jobs by the year 2017, not counting what the governor vowed to do.

“So as far as whether Scott can actually take the credit for the jobs that are being created, we’ve found in the past many times from many different experts that it would take several years to even begin to assess whether the policies had the desired job creation effect.”

Economists point out that the improving jobless rates overall may be due in part to people giving up the job search altogether. Dr. Sean Snaith at the University of Central Florida believes that is having a significant impact on the unemployment numbers.

“We get these discouraged workers who may have been looking for a year and a half or two years. But if they stop looking for a four week stretch, they’re not counted as being unemployed”, Snaith explained.

Snaith says there are limits to what any governor - including Rick Scott - can do to boost a state’s market conditions, especially after a disastrous housing bubble.

“This is a major event in Florida’s economic history and it’s one that you can’t easily shake off", Snaith said.  "Tax credits for manufacturing or marketing the state and trying to woo businesses can help growth once that larger cycle has turned again in our factor. But it’s not going to undo the damage that’s taken place in the economy.”

The governor launched a letter writing campaign this summer to companies out of state hoping to lure them to Florida’s warm climate and low taxes. His letter to business owners in Kentucky drew a heated response from that state’s governor, who accused Scott of having poor taste and providing false information.

The question is - will any of those companies take the bait? Dr. Snaith says business owners consider a lot of factors before deciding where to set up shop.

“Maybe most important of all – what’s the labor force like", Snaith asked. "Do we have the dynamic and trained and trainable labor force here in Florida? Things like quality of life and educational system and infrastructure – these are all critically important as well.”

Gov. Scott stands by his efforts. He says Florida has cut taxes 25 times and gotten rid of much of the red tape that bogs businesses down. His office says a new round of letters will go out soon to more business owners in other states, urging them to book a one-way ticket to Florida.