Fla. unemployment rate drops to 6.1%

By Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida's jobless rate continues to be an ally for Gov. Rick Scott.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dipped to 6.1 percent in January from 6.3 percent in December.

The drop comes despite the state losing an estimated 2,600 non-agricultural jobs between December and January, with some of the biggest hits taken in the fields of retail sales, education and health services, along with leisure and hospitality.

Scott used the release of the monthly numbers Monday to argue his policies have helped the state record 500,000 new private-sector jobs since his potential Democratic gubernatorial challenger Charlie Crist left the governor's mansion after the 2010 elections.

"We have come a long way in three years, but let's keep working to make sure every person who wants a job can have one," Scott said in a release that included his new "let's keep working" campaign slogan.

Florida remains below the national jobless mark of 6.7 percent, which was announced March 7.

In terms of job creation, the U.S. Department of Labor noted Monday that Florida's 192,800 job increase during the past year trailed only Texas and California, with each posting more than 300,000 new jobs.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, however, revised upward its December jobless rate, which had been announced in January at 6.2 percent. The revision also altered most county and regional rates.

Still, the January seasonally adjusted monthly jobless mark --- a statistical technique that eliminates recurring events such as weather, holidays, and the school calendar --- is the lowest for Florida since June 2008.

Without the seasonal adjustment, Florida's mark would be 6.3 percent.

Unlike employment numbers that are based on a surveyed sample of employers, the jobless rate is based upon the estimates of the number of people employed and actively seeking employment.

The jobs report comes a little more than a month after the Legislature's Office of Economic and Demographic Research concluded that 53.1 percent of the state's drop in unemployment between December 2011 and December 2013 was due to people dropping out of the labor force or delaying entry.

Without people dropping out, the unemployment rate in December would have been 7.9 percent, said the Feb. 13 report titled "Florida: An Economic Overview."

Across the state, Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys, continues to have the lowest jobless numbers. The county recorded a 3.8 percent jobless rate in January, up from 3.5 percent in December.

Walton County, the next lowest, grew from 4.0 percent in December to 4.2 percent, while both Alachua and Okaloosa counties increased from 4.6 percent to 5.0 percent.

Hendry County, impacted by long-term cuts in state government jobs, continues to hold the highest jobless mark, growing from 9.2 percent in December to 9.8 percent.

The state employment numbers for February are scheduled to be released March 28. 

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