After a recent Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times investigation revealed that state incentives have so far only led to a tiny sliver of promised jobs, Gov. Rick Scott and the Republican Party of Florida decided to fight back with their own job statistics.
"Florida has experienced positive job growth for 39 consecutive months," the Republican Party of Florida posted on Facebook this month.
The claim seemed odd to us, since 39 months would include part of former Gov. Charlie Crist’s term. We wanted to dig further.
Florida job statistics currently are available through October 2013, meaning Scott has been in office for 34 months where figures are available. In that time, Florida has gained jobs in 29 months and lost jobs in five months -- including as recently as May.
That means Florida has added jobs for five consecutive months, according to federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, not 39.
The state Republican Party told us it didn’t mean "consecutive" as in month after month. Instead, Republicans said they were comparing each month to the same month the previous year -- so October 2012 vs. October 2013, etc.
By that measure, Florida has had 39 months of positive job growth.
According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, the last month that saw a decline in the total number of people employed compared to the same month the previous year was July 2010.
We turned to economists to see what they thought of the GOP’s wording and approach.
They said the GOP was misleading in its wording but that one measure of job growth isn’t necessarily better than the other.
Chris Lafakis, a senior economist at Moody’s and Bill Seyfried, an economist at Rollins College in Florida, told us it can be more useful to look at trends over a few months in a row.
"For example, In March and April of 2013, the Florida economy added about 25,000 and 19,000 jobs, respectively," Seyfried said. "There were about 5,000 fewer jobs in May but then about 36,000 jobs added over the next two months. As an economist, I view May as the outlier given solid employment gains in the two months before and two months afterwards. I wouldn’t extend that to 12 months, but normally would focus on the three-month average (as opposed to just one month at a time)."
Gary Burtless, an economist at Brookings, said that most readers would have misinterpreted the Republican Party’s statement to refer to one month followed by the next month. "Employment has generally increased over the past 39 months," he said. But "it simply hasn't increased for 39 consecutive months."
Retired University of Florida economics professor David Denslow agreed.
The GOP "should have said, Florida has experienced positive year-over-year job growth for 39 consecutive months,’ " Denslow said.
The Republican Party of Florida said "Florida has experienced positive job growth for 39 consecutive months."
Economists say the state GOP is guilty of sloppy wording here. Florida has not experienced 39 consecutive months of job growth. The correct figure is five. But there is a sliver of truth if you look at the claim through the GOP’s eyes. Florida has seen year-over-year job growth for 39 consecutive months, which while not what Republicans said, is an equally notable metric.
Words matter. We rate this claim Mostly False.