THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, May 16, 2012
David Royse, The News Service of Florida
A government entity is the largest employer in 51 of the state's 67 counties, and in every county in Florida government is at least one of the top five largest employers, Florida TaxWatch reported in a study out Tuesday.
The study – which comes as Gov. Rick Scott has repeatedly argued that the state's economic future depends on the health of private sector jobs, not government employment – also said that on average, nearly 4 out of 10 of the largest employers in any county around the state are a government entity.
In looking at the top 10 employers in the state's 67 counties, TaxWatch did find that more of them – 425 of the 670 – were private companies or organizations, to just 245 that were federal, state, county or local government agencies. But the tops of those top 10 lists were dominated by government, with school systems being most notable, as they long have been in nearly every state, as the biggest job generators in local communities.
District school boards are either the number 1 or number 2 largest employer in 61 Florida counties.
"While this analysis does not consider the total size of government employment compared to total private employment, it is certainly clear that the government has a massive direct effect on local economies throughout the state through employment and payroll practices, in addition to the indirect effects that government actions, such as regulation, have on the economy," TaxWatch said in the report. "Moreover, for many counties the potential closure of a military base or correctional facility, or large layoffs due to federal, state, or local budget shortfalls, poses a significant economic threat.
"Putting aside the roles public entities are assigned to fulfill, it is important that Floridians understand that for many of the largest employers in their county, their payrolls are paid by tax dollars," the non-partisan Tallahassee-based group concluded.
The county most dependent on large government employers is Bay, which includes Panama City, thanks largely to the military. Seven out of the top ten employers in Bay County are government entities, led by Tyndall Air Force Base and the Naval Surface Warfare Center.
The military, while providing a large number of jobs in some counties, is actually in the top 10 of employers in only seven counties. The armed forces are the largest employer in Duval, Monroe, and Okaloosa, in addition to Bay.
Obviously, Leon County's two largest employers – state government itself and Florida State University – are government entities. The Leon County schools are the third largest, and the city of Tallahassee, the county itself and Florida A&M University are also in the top 10 for the county.
State government agencies are in the top 10 in 15 other counties. The state Department of Corrections is the largest employer in Gulf and Holmes counties, and one of the top employers in several rural counties with large prisons, or in some cases more than one prison.
Northeast Florida State Hospital is the largest employer in Baker County and Florida State Hospital is the largest in Gadsden.
At the other end of the spectrum are counties where just one of the top ten employers is a government agency: Calhoun, Glades, and Levy counties. The school board is the largest employer in each county, but all other significant employers are private.