Mixed signals on labor force under ‘jobs governor,’ Rick Scott

Florida Gov. Rick Scott

Florida Gov. Rick Scott

State economists are struggling to find meaning in new data sending mixed signals on the percentage of Floridians active in the labor force under the self-described jobs governor, Republican Rick Scott.

While the state’s unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent in May, down .7 percent from a year ago, statistics show that the number of residents looking for or securing employment for the first time is trending downward.

The Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research’s latest look at the Florida economy shows the percent of people newly active in the workforce fell in May to 10.5 percent from 12.1 percent a year earlier.

At the same time, the number of Floridians rejoining the workforce after a period when they stopped looking for a job or holding a job rose to 30.7 percent from 28.4 percent, during the same period.

“Currently, it is not clear what this data suggests,” EDR admits. “The increase in the share of re-entrants is generally encouraging, while the decline in new entrants sends mixed signals.”

EDR does suggest, however, that data showing a decline in the number of recent college graduates choosing to enter the workforce may be contributing to the state’s drop in new entries.

Meanwhile, the state’s overall participation rate in the workforce hit 58.9 percent in May. But that’s still well off the pre-recession high of 64 percent from November 2006 to Marco 2007.

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