TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s economy showed continued signs of improvement as the state’s unemployment rate dropped again last month.
The state’s unemployment rate for December was 6.2 percent. That’s a slight drop from the previous month and the lowest it has been in 5 1/2 years.
Just as importantly, the latest round of figures show that the state’s overall labor force is growing. One of the big reasons for previous drops in the unemployment rate was because people were leaving the labor force or had delayed their search for a new job.
Gov. Rick Scott trumpeted the new unemployment numbers when he announced them during a stop at a Miramar aviation company.
“Once again we continue to distance ourselves from the national unemployment rate and create opportunities for Florida families,” Scott said in a statement.
The national unemployment rate is 6.7 percent. The state’s jobless rate has remained lower than the national average for nine straight months.
There were an estimated 584,000 people who remain out of work in the Sunshine State. The state added slightly more than 14,000 jobs last month.
Scott has contended the state’s unemployment rate is dropping due to his policies, including his push to cut taxes and eliminate regulations. The Republican governor has made the economy and job growth the centerpiece of his re-election campaign. In many of speeches Scott notes that Florida lost jobs during the four years before he took office, a slight stab at former Gov. Charlie Crist. Crist is the leading Democratic candidate expected to challenge Scott.
But in a report last month, state economists said there were other reasons for the decline in the unemployment rate over the last two years. The state Office of Economic and Demographic Research stated in December that Florida’s real unemployment rate would be 8.3 percent if the number of people in the labor force had held steady since December 2011.
That viewpoint was echoed in an economic forecast also put out last month by the University of Central Florida Institute for Economic Competitiveness. That three-year Florida forecast also said the state has “not experienced the type of growth in Florida’s economy that is capable little more than gradually reducing the unemployment rate.” It also stated that underemployment and those not looking for work remains “significant.”
When he ran for governor, Scott contended that his policies — many of which have not been enacted— would create 700,000 jobs over seven years. The UCF analysis said Scott could meet his target by the end of 2015, which is three years ahead of schedule. But while he was campaigning, Scott said his jobs promise would be in addition to “normal growth.”
The latest unemployment statistics released Friday showed that the Tampa Bay metro area led all regions of the state in job creation in the last year. Monroe County had the lowest unemployment rate at 3.5 percent, while Hendry County had the highest rate at 10.2 percent.
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