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Rick Scott's Florida: A "hollowing out" of middle-class jobs

Welcome to Rick Scott’s Florida:

A “hollowing out” of middle-class jobs.

An “eroding” ability to create well-paying jobs.

“The no-spin picture: Florida’s recovery is just ho-hum.”

“Funding for teachers and higher education…among the worst in the country.”

“Florida is still double digits behind where it was before the recession.”

“53 percent of the decline in Florida’s unemployment rate is due to people dropping out of the labor pool.”

… Yep, Rick Scott is right. It’s working. Just not for the middle class.

Pew Report: Florida economic recovery isn’t so rosy
By Aaron Deslatte, Orlando Sentinel Tallahassee Bureau Chief

TALLAHASSEE — With Florida’s gubernatorial candidates jostling over the state of the economy, a new report suggests the Great Recession rebound isn’t so stunning or complete.

The non-partisan Pew Charitable Trusts’ new analysis ranks the 50 states on where they fall on tax, spending, debt and economic issues.

The no-spin picture: Florida’s recovery is just ho-hum.

The state’s revenue-collection rebound remains far below the national average for states, it’s more reliant on federal funds, and its employment picture lags most states.

On a positive note: when it comes to savings, Florida is in the top-third – capable of funding state government for nearly 47 days off its $3.2 billion in reserves.

The report is just the latest to temper the rosy picture of economic recovery Republican Gov.Rick Scott is touting heading into his re-election campaign next fall.

Scott campaigned on creating jobs, and has constantly touted Florida’s improved economic performance under his first three years to that of his predecessor – and Democratic challenger –Charlie Crist, who retorts he had to govern during a “global economic meltdown.”

Last week, the non-partisan LeRoy Collins Institute released a 120-page report called “Tougher Choices” by two University of Florida economists which concluded Florida’s ability to create high-wage jobs was eroding.

Among the findings, funding for teachers and higher education was among the worst in the country, its “hollowing out” of middle-class jobs was worse than the nation’s, Medicaid would continue to grow as more retirees move here, and roadways were among the nation’s most congested.

Pew’s “Fiscal 50” report compares mid-2013 fiscal data to pre-recessionary periods and determines states’ “fiscal health” on tax revenues, spending, the workforce, long-term obligations, and fiscal policy.

While average state tax collections have bounced back to pre-recession levels, Florida was one of 11 states where tax collections remain more than 10 percent below the peak in 2006.

In fact, the report indicates once inflation and seasonal fluctuations are account for, Florida is roughly 21 percent below its boom days in the mid-2000s. Only Wyoming and Alaska were worse off.

“When it comes to buying power, Florida is still double digits behind where it was before the recession,” said Barb Rosewicz, a research director in Pew’s state fiscal health project.

Employment rates for “prime-age” workers — 25- to 54-year-olds — remained lower in 35 states last year than in 2007, and Florida ranked third-worst in the country, better than only New Mexico and Nevada.

The report concluded roughly 75 percent of Florida’s “prime-age” workers were holding down jobs last year, compared to 81.1 percent in 2007 – a 6.2 percent decline. That means for every 100 people in that group, there are 6.2 fewer working now.

“It shows us there is something else going on in Florida’s labor situation, that maybe happening underneath what is happening with the unemployment rate,” Rosewicz said.

That “drop-out” finding echoes Florida economists, who earlier this month released a forecast pegging the number of jobs lost in the state since the recession at 419,700 – and noted that because of population growth, it would take the creation of 850,000 jobs to regain its employment peak. Their report concludes that 53 percent of the decline in Florida’s unemployment rate is due to people dropping out of the labor pool.

The Pew report offers a slightly dated picture of public debt, lumping Florida in with six other states – including New York, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington — where debts for things like building roads, university buildings and buying conservation lands was larger than total unfunded retirement costs for public employees.

Scott has bragged about retiring more than $3 billion in state debt since taking office, and lawmakers are once again considering pension reforms this year which could lower future unfunded liabilities for public workers.

Lastly, Florida was above the national median for budget-reserves –with enough cash to power government for roughly one-and-a-half months.

By comparison, California could pay its bills for only 3.3 days off its reserves and Illinois couldn’t even make it two days.,0,

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