Florida's unemployment situation improved slightly in May, but the state continues to lag behind the nation in getting people back to work.
State labor officials on Friday reported an 8.6 percent unemployment rate for May, down 0.1 percent from April and its lowest rate since December 2008. Florida's number of unemployed fell below 800,000 for the first time since January 2009.
The statewide trend was not reflected across Northeast Florida, where nine counties saw their unemployment rate increase in May. Duval County's 8.4 percent rate was unchanged, but down 2.0 percent from one year ago. (See table of county-by-county rates below.)
Florida still remains significantly above the national unemployment rate of 8.2 percent.
The May rate fell slightly from Florida's 8.7 percent figure in April when the state also lost jobs because thousands of people left the labor force. The May rate is the lowest in December 2008.
Gov. Rick Scott, who made jobs the central theme of his campaign for office, is pleased that the state's unemployment rate is down 2.3 percent in the 16 months since he took office.
"It is clear that the work we have done to lower the cost of doing business in our state by cutting taxes and reducing regulation is giving the private sector the confidence it needs to expand, grow and add jobs," Scott said in a statement.
The counties with the lowest unemployment rates were those with relatively high proportions of government employment. Monroe County had the healthiest situation with 4.9 percent unemployment and Alachua's 6.7 percent rate is the sixth best in the state.
Flagler County's 11.7 percent is tied for the worst in the state.
Sectors driving the improved numbers included a 2.1 percent increase in retail trade, while manufacturing inched up 1.7 percent. Health care, a particularly large employment sector, grew by 2 percent.
Construction employment remains weak, though, with overall construction sector employment down 5.7 percent year-to-year. Of particular interest in Florida's market, building construction employment was off 9.3 percent.
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