Florida's unemployment rate dipped to 8 percent in December — the lowest rate in more than four years.
The drop in the unemployment rate also lowered the gap between the state's jobless figure and the national number, which edged up to 7.8 percent in December. The difference between the state and the national unemployment number had been 0.4 percentage points in November.
The unemployment rate was the lowest it's been since November 2008, state officials said.
Currently, 749,000 Floridians are unemployed, with slightly fewer than 7.4 million people holding non-agricultural employment.
"Trends show that we are also experiencing growth in many different economic indicators that are key to job creation," Gov. Rick Scott said. "Housing starts are on the rise, businesses and families continue to move to Florida and more jobs are being created. The changes we are making to improve our state's business climate are helping Florida families pursue the American dream."
The number of jobs in the state has actually increased by 54,900 over the last year. The number of non-agricultural jobs dropped by 15,300 since November, but state economists generally underscore the long-term trend in both numbers.
While the unemployment rate for Florida is calculated using a survey by the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of jobs comes from a survey by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
December marked the 29th month in which Florida had more jobs than it did a year ago.
According to the Department of Economic Opportunity, the leisure and hospital industry added the most jobs over the past year, adding 29,900 positions for a 3.1 percent increase. Trade, transportation and utilities gained 22,200 jobs, while professional and business services tacked on 18,100 jobs and private education and health services added 13,200.
The biggest drop came in the total government sector, with 10,600 jobs shed and construction, with a decrease of 6,800 jobs.
The lowest unemployment rate in the state belonged to Monroe County, at 4.5 percent, while the highest went to Flagler County, with 11.2 percent. The department said three Florida counties now face double-digit unemployment rates, half of the number that did a month earlier. The other counties with double-digit rates were Putnam County at 10.1 percent and St. Lucie County at 10 percent.
Twelve of the state's 22 metro areas added jobs over the last year, from a boost of 21,000 in the Tampa Bay area to 18,900 jobs in the Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford region, the department reported. The largest job loss came in the Miami area, where 3,700 jobs were shed, but the Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin area saw a 2.1 percent decrease in losing 1,700 jobs.