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By Kyra Haas October 15, 2018

Is Florida's economy propped up by low-wage jobs? Gillum says yes

Florida has experienced job growth during Republican Gov. Rick Scott’s two terms, but the Democratic candidate looking to replace him questions the quality of those new positions.

In an interview on CBS Miami’s "Facing South Florida," host Jim DeFede asked Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum what he thought of Florida’s economy.

"I give him credit for an economy that is largely propped up on low-wage work," Gillum said. "Of course you've got a low unemployment rate when people have got to work two and three jobs just to make ends meet."

In a companion fact-check, we rated Gillum’s claim that the low unemployment rate is due to people working multiple jobs Pants on Fire. Here, we look at Gillum’s first claim: that Florida’s economy is largely propped up on low-wage work.

Low-wage work

Florida does have a lot of low-wage workers.

Moody's Analytics senior economist Kwame Donaldson said Florida has a slightly higher percentage of people working low-wage jobs compared with the rest of the country — 36 percent in Florida, and 33 percent nationwide.

Florida is ranked 26th among all states for low-wage jobs, based on taking 279 private industries and separating them into thirds — low-wage, mid-wage, high-wage — according to their average wage at the national level. That's right in the middle of states.

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In 2016, one in five Floridians were paid $10 or less an hour, according to the 2017 State of Working Florida report from Florida International University’s Center for Labor Research and Studies.

The report shows that Florida lags the national trend of rising median wages. The state’s 2016 median wage of $16.03 an hour was the lowest in 11 years.

"If Gillum’s point is that this situation has gotten worse under Gov. Scott, then there is evidence in support of this claim," Donaldson said. "The share of low-wage jobs in Florida has grown by two percentage points over the last eight years, the 10th-sharpest increase in the nation."

In an email, Gillum’s campaign pointed to an article from the Gainesville Sun that highlighted the increase in low-wage jobs since the recession, indeed making that point.

Low-wage jobs have accounted for nearly one in every two jobs created in Florida between 2005 and 2016, according to the 2017 State of Working Florida report. More than 392,000 of the 883,000 jobs created during this time paid $10 or less an hour.

Our ruling

Gillum said that Florida’s economy was propped up on low-wage jobs.

We found that some of Florida’s job growth has been in low-wage jobs, and that the median wage level is the lowest in 11 years. However, there has been job growth in higher-paying jobs as well, and Florida is ranked 26th in low-wage jobs compared to other states.

Gillum has a point but additional context is needed. We rate this claim Half True.

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PolitiFact rating logo PolitiFact Rating:
Half True
Says Florida's economy "is largely propped up on low-wage work."
in an interview
Sunday, September 30, 2018

Our Sources

PolitiFact, "Nelson, Scott fact-checked each other in their first Florida Senate debate. We fact-checked them," Oct. 2, 2018

CBS Miami, "Facing South Florida: One-On-One With Gubernatorial Candidate Andrew Gillum Part II," Sept. 30, 2018

PolitiFact, "Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrong on several counts about unemployment," July 18, 2018
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics via Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis "Multiple jobholders, primary job full time, secondary job part time," accessed Oct. 3, 2018

Florida International University Center for Labor Research & Studies, "State of Working Florida 2017," September 2017

Florida United Way, "2017 Asset limited, income constrained,employed report," Feb. 14, 2018

The Gainesville Sun, "Florida’s job growth brisk, but largely at low wages," Aug. 4, 2018

Tampa Bay Times, "Wages remain stagnant in Florida despite super low unemployment. What’s going on?," Aug. 17, 2018

PolitiFact, "Scott-o-Meter: Create over 700,000 jobs," April 10, 2018

Fla News Online, "DeSantis hits Gillum for lowballing Florida’s economy," Sept. 30, 2018

Email interview with Moody's Analytics senior economist Kwame Donaldson, Oct. 4, 2018

Phone interview with Sean Snaith, director of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Economic Competitiveness, Oct. 4, 2018

Email exchange, Florida International University Center for Labor Research and Studies Director Judith Bernier, Oct. 5, 2018

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Is Florida's economy propped up by low-wage jobs? Gillum says yes

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