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Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014
Business News

Florida unemployment rate drops to 6.1%

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Published:   |   Updated: March 17, 2014 at 04:42 PM

Florida’s jobless rate declined from 6.3 percent in December to 6.1 percent in January, the lowest rate since June 2008, but the state actually lost 2,600 jobs and an estimated 581,000 Floridians remained out of work in a workforce of 9.5 million in January.

The unemployment rate in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties increased from 5.8 percent in December to 6.2 percent in Hillsborough and 6.3 percent in Pinellas, while the jobless rate in Pasco County increased from 6.8 percent to 7.2 percent.

But year-over-year data based on preliminary January figures painted a more promising picture both for Florida and the Tampa Bay region, a Florida Department of Economic Opportunity preliminary report released Monday indicated.

Florida’s unemployment rate declined 1.9 percentage points from 8 percent since January 2013.

Seasonally adjusted, non-agricultural employment statewide in the private sector rose 3.1 percent year-over year, including a 0.7 percent gain to 6.6 million in January compared with December.

“I’m not trying to paint a pretty picture, but the Florida economy seems to be gaining momentum,” Wells Fargo economist Mark Vitner said in a telephone interview from Charlotte, N.C. Florida’s unemployment rate remains 0.5 percentage points below the national average of 6.6 percent.

“And Tampa’s job growth year-to-year is among the leaders nationwide,” Vitner said.”

Vitner said declines between December and January are fairly commonplace in Florida.

He also pointed to Florida’s declines primarily in government jobs, rather than the private sector. Government jobs declined 0.4 percent between in year-over-year figures, but fell 3.3 percent to 1.1 million between December and January.

The four-county Tampa Bay region (Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties) gained 29,400 jobs over the year to nearly 1.2 million, a 2.5 percent increase compared with year-ago figures.

In the local region, professional and business services jobs showed the largest total gains with 9,200 jobs over the year, followed by transportation and utilities, up 6,300 jobs.

The metro area led all Florida metro areas in year-over-year gains in manufacturing, professional and business services and education and health services.

Florida was one of 43 states in January with a decline in unemployment rates, the Associated Press reported.

“Florida has become a national example of how growing one company and one job at a time can secure Florida’s future by helping Floridians get back to work,” the Florida Chamber of commerce said in a statement Monday.

However, more than a half-million remain unemployed in Florida.

Last week, the U.S. Senate announced a bi-partisan agreement to extend jobless benefits for those whose state and federal unemployment payments have expired, but Republican House leadership has given no indication that it would support such a measure.

tjackovics@tampatrib.com

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