• 9 Investigates Floridians working harder for less money


    CENTRAL FLORIDA - Florida spent $18 million to attract business to the state in 2012. Boasting the fifth best business tax climate, according to the non-partisan Tax Foundation, Florida has enjoyed a steady increase in labor force and residents since the year 2000, however, most of those new jobs come with low wages.

    Floridians are working harder and for less money. A new report by Florida International University's Center for Labor Research and Studies shows the number of Floridians with earnings at or below the federal minimum wage increased by almost 7 percent since 2002.

    "We have high rates of job growth over the past two decades. The problem is that the average wage in the state of Florida is below the nation as a whole" said WFTV Political Analyst Dr. Rick Foglesong, "Here in … Central Florida (it is) beneath the state average because we rely on service sector jobs and the theme park-connected employment."

    In 2012, only Texas had more workers than Florida with earnings at or below the federal minimum wage; of those workers women were twice as likely as men to earn below the minimum wage with men earning on average $6,362 more than women.

    "The challenge in Florida is good jobs at good wages," said Foglesong.

    As wages have fallen, the report from FIU finds even more troubling news for working Floridians. The report found consumer prices up 33 percent since 2000, with housing prices increasing 30 percent in the same time period. Transportation costs in the state since 2000 have increased by more than 40 percent while in the same time state spending on transportation has decreased by 14 percent.

    Poverty in the state has also increased. In 2011, according to FIU, 22.6 percent of Floridians were at or near the poverty line. From 2007 to 2011 poverty in Florida increased by 46 percent with more than 1 million Floridians considered to be living in poverty.

    Critics say the state's spending on jobs has not been targeted at high-paying jobs, but rather low-wage jobs with few benefits.

    "When you go and look at the data, the jobs just aren't coming," says Dan Krassner of state watchdog group Integrity Florida.

    Integrity Florida has been highly critical of the state's use of incentives to attract businesses to Florida. The group says for the millions of dollars the state has pumped into incentives, there is little to show in terms of jobs grown versus jobs relocated from out of state.

    Perhaps most troubling in the FIU report is the declining number of people engaged in the labor market. According to the report, labor force participation has decreased by 3.8 percent since 2000. With a smaller section of the population willing to work, consumer spending, consumption, is adversely impacted. The report says if Florida's declining wages continue, the state can expect slow economic growth for years to come.

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