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Thursday, 4th September 2008

The State of Working Florida, 2008

The State of Working Florida, 2008 (PDF; 556 KB)
Source: Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy, Florida International University
From e-mail:

Already in 2007 workers began to feel the effects of a slowing economy. Job creation fell, unemployment rose, and wages remained flat. But the cost of living in Florida continued to rise, and job benefits remain weak, signaling trouble for Florida’s workers for the near future.

The annual Labor Day report The State of Working Florida released on Sunday by the Research Institute on Social and Economic Policy at Florida International University showed that the number of jobs in Florida grew by just 0.5% in 2007, down from a high of 4% growth in 2005. The construction industry showed the biggest drop, losing 54,000 jobs. Unemployment rose from 3.2% in 2006 to 4.1% in 2007, with Hispanics experiencing the biggest increase. The insecurity in the job market meant no upward pressure on wages, which saw no growth in Florida in 2007. Florida remains very weak in job benefits, ranking 47th in health care coverage and 50th for private sector pension/retirement plans.

Report co-author Bruce Nissen, Professor of Labor Studies at Florida International University, said, “These numbers show that Floridians have already begun to feel the effects of the slowing economy, job loss, and flat wages. This plus the simultaneous increases in the cost of living make the near future look very worrisome for working Floridians.”

2007 marked the end of the recovery period after the last recession in 2001, and Florida did well compared with the nation during this period, exceeding the U.S. in job growth and adding workers to the labor market. But the fall off in key Florida industries such as construction and real estate mean that Florida could be in for a more severe downturn than the nation. Already job creation in Florida fell below the U.S. rate, which was 1.1% in 2007.

One group, African Americans, appears to never really have benefitted from the recovery period. Labor force participation among African Americans was lower in 2007 at the end of the recovery than it was in 2000 before the last recession. Even though African Americans consistently have higher labor force participation than other groups, the rate was lower than it had been since before 1989.

The economic downturn has exposed weaknesses in the Florida economy, which for decades has survived on tourism related industries and periodic bouts of real estate speculation. The latest cycle brought people and jobs to the state, but many of the jobs have evaporated, and local and state governments have been left with gaping holes in their budgets. This time, Florida needs to enact specific policies that will allow workers to survive the tough times ahead and build the state’s capacity for healthy economic growth.


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