Fla. unemployment rates drop

About 11,000 hopeful Florida workers found jobs in March, helping push the unemployment rate to its lowest in more than three years.

The unemployment rate fell to 9.0, a 0.4 percent drop from February, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity reported Friday morning. Palm Beach County's rate also fell by 0.4 percent to 8.8, though the county numbers are not adjusted for expected seasonal fluctuations. (Florida's unadjusted rate is 8.6 percent.)

The Treasure Coast's combined unemployment rate fell in March to 10 percent, almost two full percentage points lower than the rate of a year ago.

For the second consecutive month, every Florida county had a lower jobless rate.

And for the third consecutive month, Indian River County's jobless rate dropped a little more than that of St. Lucie or Martin counties.

Indian River County's rate fell to 9.6 percent from 10.2 percent the previous month. St. Lucie County's rate dropped to 10.9 percent from 11.4 percent.

Martin County jobless rate fell to 8.8 percent from 9.4 percent in January.

March was the eighth consecutive month of lower unemployment rates for St. Lucie County and the seventh for Indian River and Martin counties.

Unemployment on the Treasure Coast peaked in August 2010 when Indian River County's jobless rate reached 16.2 percent and St. Lucie County's was 15.3 percent. Martin County's highest rate was 12.4 percent in January 2010.

"While the decrease in the unemployment rate in Florida is good news for our state, we must be mindful that many of our residents are still looking for work," said Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Hunting Deutsch. "DEO, working together with Enterprise Florida and Workforce Florida, will continue to work tirelessly to bring new jobs and more opportunities to the state."

Though an estimated 25,159 Treasure coast residents are still unemployed and looking for work, that's almost 5,000 fewer than a year ago.

Whether a person is eligible for or receiving unemployment compensation or other benefits is not a factor in whether that person is counted among the unemployed.

The jobless rates in the Treasure Coast counties are the lowest since December 2008, when Indian River County's rate was 9.1 percent, St. Lucie County's was 10.4 percent and Martin County's was 8.5 percent.

Even with the decline, St. Lucie County returned to third place among the state's 67 counties after moving down to fourth the previous month. Indian River County returned to 12th after dropping to 13th in February. Martin County ranked 26th.

Rebecca Rust, chief economist for the Agency for Workforce Innovation, has previously estimated that another 7.8 percent of the state's workforce fall in the discouraged and underutilized category, and that percentage is probably higher in counties with above-average unemployment.

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