Gov. Rick Scott declared Friday that Florida has reached his 2010 campaign goal of creating 700,000 jobs within seven years, as the state's unemployment rate was posted at its lowest rate since May 2008.
Four years ago, Scott's jobs pledge was accompanied by the line "on top of what normal growth would be," a phrase abandoned by the governor shortly after he took office but not forgotten by Democrats.
Scott's declaration that the campaign pledge has been achieved came tied to the monthly jobs report from the state Department of Economic Opportunity, which put Florida's unemployment mark at 5.8 percent in November, down from 6.0 percent a month earlier.
The state rate is even with the national figure.
The state's unemployment report estimated that 38,600 private-sector jobs had been created between October and November, the most in a single month since Scott took office at the start of 2011.
The monthly gains were primarily found in services fields, from hotel accommodations and the food industry to health care. The latest numbers also pushed the number of private-sector jobs added in the state to 715,700 since December 2010, "far surpassing (Scott's) goal to create 700,000 jobs in seven years," the state report declared.
"Four years ago, we unveiled an ambitious plan to fix Florida's economy and turn the state around," Scott said in a prepared statement. "Our goal was to create 700,000 jobs in seven years. Today our goal was reached three years early, with 715,700 private-sector jobs created in Florida since December 2010."
The release from the governor's office was titled: "Gov. Rick Scott: Florida did it!"
When Scott took office, the unemployment rate stood at 11.1 percent.
Democrats on Friday called Scott's mission-accomplished release a "lie," saying Scott's 2010 pledge included the caveat of being on top of normal growth as predicted by state economists.
"It’s a fraud against the people of Florida, and an insult to everyone who can't find a job this holiday season," Joshua Karp, communications director of the Florida Democratic Party, said in an email.
When the campaign pledge was made, it was immediately viewed as a high bar as the goal was on top of the roughly 1 million jobs economists said Florida will add during that time through normal growth and business expansion.
Sean Snaith, the director of the University of Central Florida's Institute for Economic Competitiveness, acknowledged that Scott's campaign pledge has "come back to haunt him," but called Scott's claim "valid."
"We have solid measurements of payroll jobs and we know when he took office and we can count the number of jobs added to payroll since then," Snaith said. "The fog goes back to some point that there was some claim that this would be on top of the normal jobs, which I don't know how anyone could know."
When Scott took office, there were 1.1 million Floridians considered out of work from a labor force of 9.245 million. In the latest report, the number of jobless was down to 556,000 from a labor force now standing at 9.66 million.
Across Florida, the lowest county unemployment rates continued to come from the Florida Keys and parts of the Panhandle.
Monroe County held the lowest monthly jobless mark in November, down to 3.5 percent from 3.6 percent in October.
Walton County in Northwest Florida went down a point to 3.8 percent, while nearby Okaloosa County dipped from 4.5 percent to 4.4 percent.
Many of the counties with the lowest unemployment rates are those with relatively high proportions of state and federal government employees.
Southwest Florida's Hendry County, while falling from 10.5 percent in October to 9.7 percent in November, continued to hold the state's highest unemployment rate.
Flagler, in Northeast Florida, was the next highest, at 8.1 percent.