The drop in Florida's unemployment rate has given Gov. Rick Scott something to brag about, but a new report suggests the improvement is not all it's cracked up to be.
In fact, some 69 percent of the improvement may be tied to people dropping out of Florida's labor force.
On Tuesday, Florida's Office of Economic and Demographic Research issued a report on the state's economy, including its job market, housing market and population growth. Its analysis of the unemployment rate may get the most attention.
Florida's jobless rate fell from 9.9 percent in December 2011 to 8.6 percent this past May, an impressive drop of 1.3 percentage points. That has allowed politicians and state agency heads to tout the state's job gains as a sign their policies are working.
"Under the leadership of our job-focused governor, Florida's unemployment rate has decreased to its lowest point in more than three years, again showing Florida is headed in the right direction," Hunting F. Deutsch, executive director of the Department of Economic Opportunity said in a May news release.
But the new report suggests that fewer people are involved in Florida's labor force today. As people drop out of the labor force, either because they've given up looking for work or they've gone back to school, they no longer are considered unemployed.
More than two-thirds of the improvement in the unemployment rate appears tied to these labor force dropouts. If the labor force participation rate had been steady since December, the actual unemployment rate would be 9.5 percent -- not the current 8.6 percent, the Office of Economic and Demographic Research found.
Still, the report doesn't compare Florida to other states, which also have seen their labor force participation rates drop. The percentage of Americans working or actively looking for work is at its lowest level in 30 years, the U.S. Department of Labor said earlier this year.
A spokesman for the state Department of Economic Opportunity was not available for comment late Tuesday.
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