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Mason

Florida jobless rate drops, lowest since late 2008

by Michael Peltier, The News Service of Florida

Florida's jobless rate fell in November to 8.1 percent, its lowest rate since late 2008, sparking optimism from Gov. Rick Scott who outlined a list of economic bright spots Friday. 

The November rate was a 0.4 percentage point drop from October and 2 percentage points lower than November 2011, the Department of Economic Opportunity reported Friday.

Florida continued to close in on the national jobless rate, which fell 0.2 points to 7.7 percent in November. 

Florida's figure translates into 760,000 workers unable to find employment. The number of employed Floridians in non-agricultural jobs, meanwhile, rose 83,000 to 7.4 million, an increase of 1.1 percent over a year ago, according to department figures.

Scott in a statement said the numbers reflect a continued resurgence in Florida's economy, which showed signs of strength across multiple sectors. 

"For many of Florida's families during this holiday season there could be no greater gift than a regular paycheck," Scott said. "Florida's economy continues to improve as evidenced by the more than 24,000 Floridians that filled private-sector jobs created in November, for one of the largest over the month rate declines in more than 20 years."

Among the strongest sectors, leisure and hospitality employment grew by 31,200 jobs, or 3.3 percent, from a year ago. 

Other strong sectors were trade, transportation and utilities, up 24,700 jobs, or 1.6 percent, and businesses services, which grew by 1.9 percent, or 20,700 jobs. 

Government employment continued to shrink, with most of the 9,300 lost government jobs coming at the state and federal level. Construction employment remained weak, falling by 3,900 jobs, or 1.2 percent.

Regionally, 16 of 22 metro areas had year-to-year job gains in November 2012. Tampa/St. Petersburg/Clearwater led the state by adding, 22,900 jobs, an increase of 2 percent. 

Crestview-Fort Walton Beach saw job losses of 2,000, or 2.5 percent. 

Speaking to the News Service Friday, the governor said the employment figures join a series of other recent economic indicators — housing starts, existing home sales, job listings — that point to an economic resurgence across the state.

For working families, however, the key to any success is getting off the unemployment line. 

"The biggest thing for families is that more families are employed," Scott said. "It's the biggest issue they deal with."

University of North Florida economics professor Paul Mason said Duval County's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 8.52 percent in November from 8.37 percent in October, but was down from 10.41 percent in November 2011.

For the five-county Jacksonville Metropolitan Statistical Area, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate improved, he said.

The rate dropped to 7.64 percent in November from 7.93 percent in October.

The area consists of Baker, Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns counties.

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