The rate was 0.2 percentage points lower than in the month before, and nearly a point and a half lower than a year ago. The state had over 10,000 more jobs in February than it did in January, and the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) said the state’s number of jobs is up 1 percent over a year earlier.
The DEO added, however, that the state still has 869,000 people looking for work out of a state labor force of just under 9.3 million, and Florida’s rate remains well above the nation’s jobless rate of 8.3 percent.
February was also a strong month for job creation nationally, and a number of economists say that it’s hard to separate how much job growth in any single location is based on local economic policies, and how much can be attributed to the overall improving national economy.
Job growth in the nation as a whole, however, has outpaced the recovery in Florida. While Florida has seen 1 percent job growth over the year, the state is actually holding the country as a whole back – the nation has seen 1.5 percent job growth in the same time period.
Still, Gov. Rick Scott, who came into office promising to put creating jobs first, trumpeted the latest numbers.
“Florida’s drop in its unemployment rate and increase in private sector job creation continues to prove our state is definitely headed in the right direction,” Scott said in a statement. “The signing of my 2012 Jobs and Economic Development Package represents a significant step towards ensuring Florida is the best place in the nation to create, attract and retain jobs.”
DEO said that 346,000 people claimed benefits this past month, down from a peak of 735,000 collecting unemployment in February of 2010.
The slow economic recovery is starting to be reflected in state tax collections as well. Legislative economists report that corporate income tax collections are up and that general revenue collection was higher than expected in February. For the fiscal year, general-revenue collections are $74.6 million above earlier estimates.
Transportation, trade and utilities led job growth in Florida in February, followed by the private education industry and the health care sector. However, construction, typically a mainstay of the Florida economy, remains sluggish. The construction industry lost jobs year over year, with construction jobs down 5.1 percent from February of 2011. The drop in private construction jobs was due, in part, to cutbacks in state government spending, DEO said. But the slow housing market remains the main culprit.
Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys, continued to have the state’s most robust employment picture, with only 5.4 percent unemployment. Walton and Okaloosa counties in the Panhandle, both of which have large numbers of military personnel, and Alachua County, home to the University of Florida, also had low unemployment rates at 7 percent or lower. Despite Alachua County’s relatively low unemployment rate, Gainesville was one of the few metro areas that saw a net job loss in the month. Others were Pensacola and Port St. Lucie.
Flagler County continued to struggle with the state’s highest out-of-work rate at 12.7 percent. Also above 12 percent in unemployment in February was Hernando County.
The Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area created the most new jobs during the period, creating just under 21,000, a 1.9 percent increase.
Source: News Service of Florida, David Royse
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