Fla. unemployment in February drops to 7.7%

Duval County dips below state, national average at 7.5%

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida's seasonally adjusted unemployment dipped to its lowest level in more than four years in February when it dropped to 7.7 percent.

It's the lowest jobless rate in Florida since October 2008 when unemployment stood at 7.4 in the state.

There were 729,000 jobless Floridians in February when the state's unemployment rate of 7.7 percent was the same as the national rate.

February monthly employment data

The rate in Duval County dropped from 8 percent in January to 7.5 percent in February, which is below the state and national average.

The unemployment rate also dropped in nine of 10 other northeast Florida counties. (See bottom of story for county outlooks).

Florida Gov. Rick Scott successfully campaigned on creating 700,000 new jobs in Florida over a seven-year span and has made that the primary issue of his administration.

The Department of Economic Opportunity reported Friday that 128,100 jobs have been added in Florida over the past year with the leisure and hospitality industry leading the way with more than 41,000 new jobs.

Michael Osbourn, who's wife has been unemployed for months, keeps telling to keep trying and not give up. He said he's encouraged by Friday's news from the governor that job creation in Florida is working.

The governor announced that Nassau County leads the way in declining unemployment rates, followed by Clay, Duval and St. Johns counties, which are also moving in the right direction.

"We've been seeing incredible volume, especially over the last few weeks. We're seeing some doors open," said Amy McGeorge, CEO of Talagy.

McGeorge says new construction in Amelia Island is filling hundreds of jobs in Nassau County. And in Clay County, the health care industry is putting people back to work. As for Duval County, there is improvement in several areas.

"Sales, sales, sales. Anyone who is bringing money to the top line, absolutely growing like crazy," McGeorge said. "And then technology jobs. There are so many technology jobs available in Duval and the surrounding areas."

McGeorge says employment in the technology industry is also thriving in St. Johns County. And she points to an industrial area near Baptist Medical Center South, where engineering firms are hiring again.

Byron Holcomb says he's noticed salaries aren't what they used to be before the recession. And some still looking for a job say the competition is fierce.

"I think it's great they're coming back, but they're not paying anything," he said.

"I'm from Baker County, and there's nothing hardly open there," said Kelly Johnson, who's unemployed.

Experts say concerns of a double dip into a recession again are no longer a concern.

"I don't see any evidence of a double dip," McGeorge said. "I see the opposite. Let's hope it continues."

February 2013January 2013February 2012
Alachua County5.6%6.0%6.9%
Baker County7.4%7.1%9.1%
Bradford County6.2%6.6%7.7%
Clay County6.4%6.9%8.3%
Columbia County6.9%7.5%8.6%
Duval County7.5%8.0%9.3%
Flagler County10.3%11.0%12.5%
Nassau County6.4%7.3%8.7%
Putnam County10.3%10.9%11.7%
St. Johns County5.8%6.3%7.6%
Union County6.3%6.8%7.8%

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