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Politics

Florida a National Leader in Private-Sector Job Growth

March 11, 2012 - 7:00pm

Bouncing back from tough times, Florida is now among the nation's top job creators.

A Goldman Sachs survey found that job growth in four sand states -- Arizona, California, Florida and Nevada -- is outpacing the rest of the country.

I was a little bit surprised, said Jan Hatzius, chief economist at Goldman Sachs and lead author of the report. Whats particularly interesting is the contrast this new data provide between now and where we were a year ago, when [job growth] was still below the national average.

Bottom line: The states that got hit hardest by the recession are now recovering fastest.

In 2011, Florida added 130,000 private-sector jobs to bring its unemployment rate under 10 percent.

Florida was among the last states to see its unemployment rate peak. It hit 12 percent in December 2010. Since then, the state's recovery has been among the fastest in the country, the Goldman Sachs researchers said.

Mark Wilson, president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, said the state is benefiting from efforts to diversify the economy beyond tourism, agriculture and construction.

Seven, eight years ago, those are all we had, Wilson told Business Week, adding that in the past year, the state has seen strong gains in the health-care industry and manufacturing.

Looking to further stimulate private-sector employment, state lawmakers approved Gov. Rick Scott's economic-development package.

Scott press secretary Lane Wright said the governor's seven-point program was adopted in its entirety by the Legislature, which adjourned Friday.

Among its key components:

  • Streamlining business permitting and eliminating "burdensome" rules and regulations.
  • Providing tax relief, including an increase in the business tax exemption by an additional $25,000 and eliminating it for 25 percent of the companies required to pay it; exempting any business with less than $50,000 in tangible personal property, and eliminating it for roughly half of the businesses required to pay the tax levied on the amount of all articles of value owned by a business.
  • Reforming the unemployment system to create a re-employment system, requiring job training for underskilled job seekers collecting unemployment.
  • Increasing oversight of 24 locally controlled workforce boards.
  • Prioritizing key transportation projects, including improvements at 14 deep water ports and building interconnected transportation systems to serve those facilities.
  • Offering stability to Florida businesses by balancing the budget without raising taxes.
  • Prioritizing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education to focus Floridas K-12 and higher education systems on producing graduates that can support a growing high-tech work force.

While the four "sand states" all continue to post a higher unemployment rate than the U.S. average, they will make quicker progress in reducing it this year, forecasts Moody's Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pa.

Moody's projected that California could drop to 9.8 percent from 11.2 percent by December; Florida to 8.9 percent from 9.9 percent; Nevada to 12.5 percent from 13 percent; and Arizona to 8.5 percent from 9 percent. The national jobless rate is forecast to be 8.2 percent at year's end, Moody's said.

Though California gained the most jobs of the top four states -- largely because it is nearly two times more populous than Florida -- the Golden State's heavy tax burden could constrain its growth, economists say.

Florida, with no personal income taxes and declining business levies, is No. 2 and trying harder.

Echoing Scott's employment-first agenda, Wilson said, We want to set the model for job growth in the U.S."

Contact Kenric Ward at kward@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 801-5341.

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