Jobless rate holds steady in state; up in NE Fla.

Florida's unempoyment rate below the national average for four months

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The unemployment rate in Florida held steady at 7.1 percent in June, Gov. Rick Scott announced Thursday -- unexpectedly pre-empting the scheduled Friday release of the figures.

The latest numbers show an additional 2,300 private sector jobs in the Sunshine State, but also show the June unemployment rate went up in Duval and all other Northeast Florida counties. (See table at bottom of this article).

"The creation of more than 2,000 private sector jobs last month is further evidence of the state's continuing economic recovery," Scott said in a release that caught many in the state government and media off guard on Thursday.

The release of the monthly numbers came against a backdrop of protesters calling for the governor to return to the Capitol to address their concerns about the "stand your ground" law and Department of Children and Families Secretary David Wilkins' decision to resign.

Wilkins' agency is embroiled in a controversy about the deaths of four children since May 16 and a dispute with local child-welfare agencies.

Florida Department of Economic Opportunity spokeswoman Jessica Sims said the local unemployment breakdowns will still be released Friday morning, but the statewide figure was announced because the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics had "inadvertently" released the monthly percentage on Thursday.

The 7.1 percent unemployment rate is the lowest in Florida since September 2008 and remains below the national mark of 7.6 percent.

Florida has been below the national average for four months.

The unemployment rate went up a half-point or more in Jacksonville and four other counties in Northeast Florida. Flagler and Putnam counties continue to have among the highest jobless rates in the state -- substantially higher than the national average.  St. Johns, Bradford and Alachua counties have among the lowest rates in Florida.

The monthly report on a week Scott has traveled the state making several new job announcements.

On Wednesday, Scott was in the western Panhandle as CHCS Services, a California-owned information technology company announced plans to bring up to 385 jobs to Pensacola and West Fraser Timber Co.'s saw mill in McDavid introduced plans to hire 80.

On Thursday, Scott announced Bristol-Myers Squibb planned to locate a facility in Tampa that would create 579 life sciences jobs.

"Announcements like this from Bristol-Myers Squibb show that companies are taking notice of our economic turnaround and that it's working in Florida," Scott stated in a separate release.

The need for jobs has also been playing out in recent weeks as communities across the state cobble together financial packages intended to entice Internet giant Amazon to open one of the planned distribution "fulfillment" centers that would result in 3,000 jobs and more than $300 million in investments within Florida.

Hillsborough County hopes to get 450 higher-wage jobs and to see more Amazon make a $200 million capital investment in the county.

June 2013May 2013June 2012
Alachua County5.9%5.3%7.3%
Baker County6.9%6.3%7.7%
Bradford County5.9%5.6%7.5%
Clay County6.1%5.9%8.0%
Columbia County6.8%6.4%8.5%
Duval County7.5%7.0%9.4%
Flagler County10.2%9.6%11.9%
Nassau County6.0%5.7%7.5%
Putnam County9.7%9.1%11.6%
St. Johns County 5.6%5.5%6.9%
Union County6.3%5.8%7.8%

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