THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, August 16, 2013 ………Florida's unemployment rate has held steady through the front part of the summer.
Bolstered by private-sector job growth in the fields such as automotive sales and repair, home maintenance and garden supply, transportation and utilities, the state's unemployment rate stood at 7.1 percent in July, the same as in May and June, the state Department of Economic Opportunity announced Friday.
Gov. Rick Scott, in a brief video released Friday, highlighted the creation of private sector jobs in the past month.
"In the month of July the private sector in Florida generated over 34,000 jobs," Scott said. "That's right, over 34,000 private sector jobs. That's the biggest growth in private sector jobs in any month in the last two and half years."
The monthly private-sector gains are offset by a drop of 9,400 local, state and federal jobs across Florida, along with a slight dip in manufacturing jobs.
The jobless estimate comes with a statewide workforce at 9.4 million, fluctuating down 7,000 from April when unemployment stood at 7.2 percent.
The monthly mark also keeps the state below the national average --- now at 7.4 percent --- for the fifth consecutive month.
In a release from the governor's office, Scott pointed to the new private-sector jobs as bringing him halfway to a goal of creating 700,000 within seven years of taking office.
The number would still be about 132,000 jobs short of the total jobs that state records say were lost while former Republican Charlie Crist -- the long-rumored 2014 gubernatorial candidate as a Democrat --- was in the governor's mansion. Crist's time in office coincided with the global economic meltdown.
"In the four years before I took office, Florida lost 832,000 jobs and unemployment tripled to 11.1 percent," Scott said in what was clearly a campaign shot at Crist.
Across the state, Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys, continued to have the lowest jobless numbers, standing at 4.2 percent in July, up from 4.1 percent in June, but down from 5.3 percent a year earlier.
The agriculture-dependent Hendry County held the highest rate in the state at 15.5 percent, up from 13.6 percent in June.
Three other counties also hit the double-digit mark --- Flagler and St. Lucie, both at 10.4 percent, and Putnam, at 10.0 percent. A year ago, 19 counties recorded unemployment higher than 10.0 percent.
A forecast published in July by the University of Central Florida's Institute for Economic Competitiveness Center anticipates the pace of unemployment to continue down, but at a more moderate pace, landing at 6.0 percent in the second half of 2016, as the labor force grows.
But the report cautions that the implementation of the federal healthcare law could alter projections.
"Underemployment nationally and in the state will bear watching in the months to come, as there have been indications that companies may rely more upon part-time workers to fill their labor needs, to avoid the costs of providing healthcare or the penalties for not doing so for full-time employees," the report stated.
Orlando-based Darden Restaurants received a backlash last December when it announced plans to expand part-time work to offset pending Affordable Care Act requirements. The university report notes that if Darden publicly announced such plans, "tens of thousands of other companies large and small are contemplating it as well."
The university forecast has construction, along with professional and business services, as the fastest growing sectors in Florida.
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