Report: Low-Wage Jobs Are Flooding Florida

Experts say Florida is poised to be a state filled with mostly low-skilled, low-wage jobs. (Photo by Roger Jones.)

By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

A recent Georgetown University study claims that Florida is poised to become a state of mostly low-wage and/or low-skilled jobs.

Experts have noticed that as the state sees jobless numbers decrease, a lot of the new jobs tend to be low-skilled jobs that pay less than the jobs they replace. In short, people are finding more jobs in Florida — but they aren’t necessarily finding “good jobs.”

The Sun Sentinel reports that according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a ”good job” in the United States is “defined as one that pays at least $18.50 an hour, or $37,000 a year, has employer-provided health insurance and a retirement plan.”

So far, the state has been adding a lot of jobs in the service and tourism industry, but few jobs that are high-skilled and well paying.

According to The Sun-Sentinel:

The state’s challenges include investing in education to lay the foundation for high-wage jobs, providing jobs for workers displaced during the recession, and spreading the word about the high-wage jobs that are available to attract skilled workers and more employers.

J. Antonio Villamil, economist and business dean for St. Thomas Universityin Miami, said there continues to be a mismatch between jobs and skills in Florida. “There are a lot of jobs available, but they tend to be in areas that pay relatively lower wages,” he said.

The state has been targeting jobs that require more advanced skills and pay higher wages, he said, but “you have to have the skill levels to be able to fit in those jobs.”

“Yet we don’t invest in talent and education. … We talk the talk, but we don’t walk the walk,” Villamil said, citing this year’s $300 million in cuts for Florida’s 11 public universities.

The South is a decade behind other regions in creating jobs that require college degrees and attract high-wage employers, according to a new analysis by Georgetown University’s Center on Education and Workforce.

Job creation has been Gov. Rick Scott’s biggest priority during his time in office.

It is not uncommon to hear Scott tout the state’s improving job numbers. Almost every public appearance or speech he has given during his time as governor has focused on the state’s job growth.

Not surprisingly, job growth will be the focus of his speech at the Republican National Convention in Tampa in a few weeks.

According to the News Service of Florida:

Scott made it clear that even as he prepares to speak at this month’s Republican National Convention where Romney will officially be nominated, he has no plans to change his optimistic tone.

“Look at (the fact that) our unemployment rate’s come down faster than any state but one,” Scott said . “Look at the jobs that have been generated in the last 18 months. Florida’s headed in the right direction.”

The RNC announced this week that Scott, as the host governor, will have a speaking role at the convention, though Scott said Tuesday he hasn’t been told any details. He won’t change his message, though.

“What I’m going to talk about is pretty much what I do every day, what I ran on,” Scott said. “It’s how do we get our state back to work. We’re doing the right things here.”

Even though our public officials talk about job numbers a lot in Florida, there is little conversation about the quality of the jobs being created in the state. Considering that job creation has been Scott’s sole metric for how the state is doing, this seems like a giant hole in the public discourse.

Using language borrowed from HBO’s The Wire, flooding the state with low-wage jobs while simultaneously claiming victory in job creation could be a good example of “juking the stats.” One of the running themes in The Wire is that statistics can be wildly misleading. This is especially true if statistics are used for political ends. Crime rates, standardized test scores and, yes, employment numbers can be misrepresented in the hopes of a promotion or reelection.

Even though fewer people in the state are making more money, or getting benefits, or simply getting a better job, lawmakers are able to tout that they are creating jobs and improving the lives of Floridians. They have numbers to prove their claims.

But as the Georgetown study shows, their numbers don’t tell the whole story.

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