DEO Press Releases

ICYMI: Florida's Unemployed Better Off Today

Nov 05, 2015

TALLAHASSEE - The most important assistance an unemployed person can receive is a new job. That's why, on the heels of the 2008 Great Recession, the Scott administration made job creation priority number one. We supported the low-tax, pro-growth policies that are proven to foster economic prosperity.

Nearly five years later, the result is a thriving economy in Florida. Since December 2010, the private sector has added 941,000 jobs, the unemployment rate has been cut in half, job openings are up more than 30 percent, consumer confidence is up and state GDP is growing. Job growth has occurred across industries, skill levels and pay scales. We have a robust network of CareerSource offices to help Floridians find jobs and attain new skills.

In short, it's a pretty good time to be living and working in Florida, especially compared with other states.

Despite all of this positive news, a number of recent articles and editorials in this paper have painted an inexplicably bleak picture for Floridians seeking work. Without fact-checking or serious analysis, the Sun Sentinel regurgitated the claims of the National Employment Law Project, a group that disagrees with Florida's pro-growth policies and favors more government intervention in, and control of, businesses and the market. To advance its agenda, NELP has leveled a number of misleading claims about Florida's Reemployment Assistance program (also known as unemployment insurance), and those claims have unfortunately made their way into this paper.

For example, the Sun Sentinel made the outrageous and false claim that the hundreds of hardworking public servants at the Department of Economic Opportunity — many of whom have devoted their entire careers to workforce development — are purposely making the Reemployment Assistance system difficult to navigate. To the contrary, the public servants at DEO are working hard every day to ensure that every Floridian who wants a job can get a job.

As for facts about the assistance system, there are some that the Sun Sentinel's readers should know.

First, while the paper cherry picks complaints from a few individuals, it ignores the 55,174 Broward County residents who were paid benefits since the start of the year. Second, South Florida has unfortunately become a national hub for unemployment insurance fraud based on stolen identities. DEO is leading the nation in fighting this fraud, having designed and implemented a cutting-edge analytics program that detects and prevents false claims.

Over the last two years we stopped a jaw-dropping 130,000 fraudulent claims with a potential value of $529 million. Our efforts to clean up the system have won DEO the national award for leadership among state workforce agencies. Stopping this fraud protects victims, preserves funds for legitimate claimants and saves money for taxpaying small businesses across Broward County.

The Sun Sentinel also relies on NELP's misleading claim that a comparatively low rate of Florida's unemployed are receiving benefits. Neither the federal government, nor the state government, nor the National Association of State Workforce Agencies rely on this figure as a standard measure of performance. And for good reason.

The population of unemployed individuals is always changing, and its composition is different from state to state. Some unemployed individuals are eligible for benefits under the law and some are not.

For example, in Florida the number of laid off or discharged workers has shrunk from two-thirds to less than half of all unemployed. The rest — more than half — of the unemployed are those who voluntarily left their jobs or are entering the labor market. These individuals are not eligible for unemployment insurance.

And even among laid off or discharged workers, only those who lost their job through no fault of their own are eligible. In other words, NELP's calculation tells you very little without context. Incredibly, they admitted in a 2011 presentation that the recipiency rate is an "imperfect measure, as [it] includes ineligible workers." NELP, without explanation, now ignores this context. Indeed, the group pretends we've had virtually no economic recovery at all, ignoring that an improving economy reduces the number of eligible unemployment claims.

The Sun Sentinel's editors may not want to believe it, but the economic recovery in Florida is real, and Florida's unemployed are far better off today than they were five years ago.

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