Florida's unemployment rate continues to decline, with the Tampa area among the state's leaders in job creation.
The statewide seasonally adjusted rate dropped to 8.5 percent in October from 8.7 percent the previous month, according to the state Department of Economic Opportunity. That's still higher than the national unemployment rate of 7.9 percent, but well below the state's year-ago rate of 10.2 percent.
The Tampa area has added 19,300 jobs since October 2010, second only to the Orlando area, which added 21,700 jobs over the year.
The unemployment rate in Hillsborough County was 8.0 percent, down from 8.6 percent in September and 10.1 percent a year ago. In Pasco, it was 9.1 percent, down from 9.7 percent in September and 11.7 percent a year ago; and in Pinellas, it was 7.9 percent, down from 8.4 percent in September and 10.2 percent a year ago.
James Miller, a spokesman for the DEO, said the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area led all metropolitan areas in the state in hiring in education and health services; professional and business services; and leisure and hospitality.
Gov. Rick Scott was out of the state but made note of the economic news in a speech Friday to the conservative Federalist Society in Washington, D.C.
"Just today, we can announce that Florida added 12,100 private sector jobs in the month of October and our unemployment rate declined to 8.5 percent, the lowest unemployment rate in Florida since December 2008," Scott said. "My campaign goal was to create 700,000 jobs in 7 years. Florida is now projected to create more than 900,000 new jobs by 2018."
Scott credited a four-pronged strategy: Cut regulations on businesses, cut taxes, rein in government spending and improve education. "Our economic turnaround for Florida families is well under way," the governor said.
Friday's report from the DEO summarized additional upbeat economic news. It noted that the University of Florida's consumer confidence index reported that optimism of Floridians remained near a post-recession high in October.
More people are moving to Florida; net in-migration is estimated at 134,500 in 2012, almost doubling the 2011 rate. Housing starts were up from September 2011 to September 2012, the most recent month available, by 29.3 percent, and median home prices were up 7.4 percent during the year.
Florida is running a trade surplus of more than $24 billion, with $86.8 billion in exports and $62.4 billion in imports in 2011, the latest figures available.