There have been multiple responses to the economic hardships imposed by Covid-19 and its attendant lockdowns and other consequences, with one school being to increase unemployment benefits, and the other to try to limit said benefits and return to normalcy as early as possible. The second school of thought appears to be bearing fruit in Florida, where a study appears to have vindicated Governor Ron DeSantis’ approach.
The study, conducted by Vice President of Policy and Research Jonathan Ingram and Senior Research Analyst Hayden Dublois of the Foundation for Government Accountability, and published on October 7th, credited DeSantis’ economic approach to incentivizing work with stimulating new economic activity.
“Today, there is more job creation, more economic activity, and less unemployment thanks to the economic stewardship of Gov. DeSantis. In particular, the governor’s decision to end the $300 weekly unemployment bonus helped to accelerate Florida’s economic recovery and kick the state into overdrive,” says the study.
The study also points to the decisions by Florida to stick to work-first policies, modest taxes, and limited bureaucratic regulations as generating an atmosphere friendly to entrepreneurs and innovators, which helped keep much of the state’s economy afloat. While the state overall appears to have weathered the economic blows better than some of its peers, and suffered less financial damage, there was no avoiding at least some the damage done by the pandemic and its side effects.
Florida was also hit by the labor shortage that has affected the rest of the nation. in March of this year, there were almost 500,000 unfilled job openings in Florida, and compared to the norm before the pandemic, three times as many Floridians are on unemployment.
Part of the problem for employers in Florida (and throughout the nation), was that former employees were making more money on unemployment than they did working. A record number of people were eligible for state unemployment benefits on top of the $300 per week handed out by federal unemployment agencies, boosted by the CARES Act enacted in March of 2020. According to JPMorgan Chase, 48 percent of unemployment beneficiaries were reporting income greater to or at least equal to, their former wages.
DeSantis began to phase-out the federal unemployment in late May of this year. The result was that the employment-seeking activity skyrocketed by 40 percent. Between May and August, 1.3 million workers were hired by Floridian employers, and almost 400,000 of those hires occurred in a matter of weeks after the end of the bonus to federal benefits in Florida.
The authors of the study also found that “more businesses are created in Florida than in any other state.” Up to 150,000 new businesses are counted since the federal bonus ended, which the authors link with what they found to be a general business climate friendly to entrepreneurs. This places new business founding in Florida back to nearly 70 percent of its normal levels from before the pandemic.
Though Florida was paying $400 million in unemployment benefits every week prior to the reductions, the study found that this number has decreased by 86 percent, citing data extrapolated from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. The study reports that now the state is spending $60 million per week on unemployment since late August.
Naturally, DeSantis has made the most of converting this study into political capital, and gubernatorial press secretary Christina Pushaw proudly touted the study, Fox Business reported:
“President Biden’s promised labor market recovery has not materialized. Despite dismal national trends, Governor DeSantis’ policies continue to support job growth in Florida, and our economy is thriving. Thousands of people from different states move to Florida every month in search of opportunity and a better lifestyle.”
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