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The Agency for Workforce Innovation announced Friday that the state unemployment rate dropped to 11.1 percent in March, the lowest it has been since November 2009. The rate stood at 11.5 percent in February.
“The continued decline in the unemployment rate, paired with very positive job growth, provides a strong signal that Florida’s economy has turned the corner,” said Cynthia Lorenzo, the director of the agency. “While there are still too many Floridians out of work, our economy is clearly heading in the right direction, with Governor (Rick) Scott’s emphasis on job creation and economic development.”
Scott himself cheered the news when he spoke to the media Friday in Tallahassee.
"We are clearly heading in the right direction, but we still have a way to go because we still have 1 million people out of work,” he said.
Scott added that embracing free-market solutions, including reducing regulations and cutting taxes on business, will help lower the unemployment rate even more.
While the March unemployment figures meant around 1,030,000 Floridians remained out of work, there were more than 51,000 jobs established in the Sunshine State over the last year. However, Florida still lagged behind most of the rest of the nation. The national rate remains at 9.2 percent.
In the report it released Friday, the Agency for Workforce Innovation noted that “most of the counties with lowest unemployment rates are those with relatively high proportions of government employment.” Monroe County has the lowest unemployment rate in the state with 6.6 percent, followed by Liberty County at 6.8 percent. Other counties with low unemployment were Alachua County, home of the University of Florida, Okaloosa, Walton, Lafayette and Leon, where Tallahassee is the county seat.
A majority of Florida’s counties -- 38 of the 67 -- has unemployment rates in double digits in March, as opposed to 43 in February. Flagler County has the highest unemployment rate in the state with 14.5 percent, followed by Hernando and Hendry counties.
Of the state’s metropolitan areas, Gainesville, where the University of Florida is located, has the lowest unemployment rate at 7.5 percent, while Palm Coast, in Flagler County, has the highest at 14.5 percent.
The report found job growth in leisure and hospitality, private education, health services, and professional and business services. Florida continues to lose jobs in construction -- which has had a significant impact in Flagler County -- and in information, financial activities and manufacturing.
Have a look at Sunshine State News' "Snap" video now on the Home page, in which agency Chief Economist Rebecca Rust gives a more complete breakdown: