Florida unemployment down to 6.4 percent

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Florida's unemployment rate fell to 6.4 percent in November, down from 6.7 percent in October, the state Department of Economic Opportunity announced Friday.

The mark is the lowest for the state since July 2008 and represents a 1.6 percentage point improvement from a year ago.

Palm Beach County's unemployment rate for November 2013 is 6.4 percent, according to Workforce Alliance.  This is the lowest in five years, since the June 2008 rate of 6.5 percent, and down 1.7 percent from the November 2012 rate of 8.1 percent

Gov. Rick Scott, who announced the monthly numbers while at Full Sail University in Winter Park, credited his policies for the improved marks by highlighting the addition of 6,000 private sector jobs from October to November.

"We've cut taxes, made government more efficient and provided more services to families," Scott said in a prepared statement. "The result: we are creating an opportunity economy that supports more than 446,000 new private sector jobs since December 2010."

The monthly number keeps Florida below the national unemployment rate, a place it's been since March.

The national jobless rate for November was 7.0, which also represented a 0.3 percentage point drop since October.

Florida's seasonally adjusted November numbers estimate that 599,000 Floridians were out of work from a labor force of 9.4 million. The number of jobless is down 27,000 from October.

Slight increases in employment were reported in the fields of manufacturing, education and government, while decreases were seen in construction, financial activities and leisure and hospitality.

State economists have projected unemployment should continue to drop, returning to as low as 6 percent in Florida by 2016 at the latest. However, they also continue to assert that some of the drop is due to people having dropped out of the work force, in addition to new jobs being created in a clearly recovering economy.

A Florida Legislature Office of Economic and Demographic Research report released Monday said that 59.3 percent of the state's drop in unemployment is due to people dropping out of the labor force or delaying entry.

"If the participation rate had held steady since 12/11, the unemployment rate would have been 8.3 percent" in October, the economic report said.

The latest monthly numbers come less than two weeks after the governor's office tried to refute a series of a stories in the Tampa Bay Times and Miami Herald that raised questions about job creation.

The report found that among the 342 job-creation deals approved since Scott took office --- involving the promises of up to $266 million in tax breaks and other incentives --- the state has generated 45,258 new jobs.

Scott's office argued that the media reports ignored other state economic policies that support growth beyond companies competing for state incentives.

Across the state, Monroe County, which includes the Florida Keys, continued to have the lowest jobless numbers, down to 3.78 percent in November, a drop from 3,9 percent in October and 4.7 percent a year earlier. The next lowest for November were Walton, Okaloosa, Alachua and St. Johns counties.

Hendry County, which has been impacted by long-term cuts in state government jobs, held the highest rate in the state at 11.3 percent, down from 12.0 percent in October. Hendry was the only county to crack the double-digit mark in November, October and September. A year ago, five counties recorded unemployment higher than 10.0 percent.


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