As we join family and friends at barbeques, pool parties, and picnics this weekend, it is worth reflecting on Florida’s remarkable economic turnaround. This Labor Day, Florida’s workforce is presented with pathways to prosperity that were unthinkable just a few years ago. The Great Recession hit Florida hard. Our unemployment rate skyrocketed to 11.2 percent, we lost 913,000 private-sector jobs, job demand plummeted, tourism faltered, our historic net inflow of new residents dried up, our real GDP declined, our housing market collapsed, and consumer confidence tanked. In short, during the recession, there was little for Florida’s workforce to celebrate on Labor Day each year.
Today, the economic picture for our workforce is quite different. From day one, the Scott Administration has worked hard to enact policies that would reverse the state’s negative trajectory and jumpstart the economy. We started from a simple premise: lasting prosperity arises when businesses and families live and work in an environment that promotes and rewards hard work, innovation, and investment of time and resources. That’s why the Scott Administration has supported tax cuts and the elimination of unnecessary regulations. That’s why state agencies now treat families and businesses as partners rather than as adversaries. That’s why we’ve invested record amounts in infrastructure, education, and workforce training.
The result? Over the last few years, Florida has had an economic turnaround that has defied predictions. Our unemployment rate has fallen more than five points, our private-sector has added more than 917,000 jobs, our GDP is growing again, our job demand is at record levels, tourism is setting records, and our housing market is recovering. Today, businesses and families are again making the choice to move to Florida. They again see Florida as an opportunity economy. Our population is growing and consumer confidence is at its highest level in years. And on many of these measures, our recovery is outpacing the nation. For example, our private-sector job growth rate hovers around 4 percent, while the national rate is only 2.4 percent.
If there was a silver lining to the Great Recession it appears in this: we now see fifty different states pursuing economic recovery through different policies. Lessons can be learned from the outcomes. Those states that increased taxes, increased regulation, and increased debt (think New York and Illinois) are falling behind. Those states that cut taxes, streamlined regulation, and made smart budget choices are leading the recovery (think Florida and Texas).
If we stay the course in Florida, our economy will continue to grow, our workforce will find more opportunities, and Florida will be the best place to live, work, play, and raise a family. Behind each of these new jobs are real stories of Floridians and their families who now have opportunities and hope that didn’t exist a few years ago. This year, we can truly say Happy Labor Day in Florida.
Jesse Panuccio is the Executive Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, which leads the state’s economic, workforce, and community development efforts.