Florida’s unemployment hit 8 percent, to end 2012 down 0.1 of a percentage point from November and 1.9 points from a year earlier, according to the state Department of Economic Opportunity.
The new numbers represent an estimated 749,000 out of work from among Florida’s labor force -- the total of those working or actively seeking work -- of 9,347,000.
The monthly percentage decrease comes as the state actually lost 15,300 nonagricultural jobs in part because the drop occurred during a period in which the overall labor force grew by 44,000.
The highlighted percentage mark is the lowest for the state since November 2008, when it was 7.8 percent, and represents 14 months of job gains out of the last 18 months.
With the top gains coming in the fields that include hospitality, transportation, private education and health care, the state continues to lag behind the national mark of 7.8 percent.
“Trends show that we are also experiencing growth in many different economic indicators that are key to job creation,” Gov. Rick Scott, who has been crisscrossing the state to tout expanding companies the past couple of weeks, stated in a release.
“Housing starts are on the rise, businesses and families continue to move to Florida and more jobs are being created. The changes we are making to improve our state’s business climate are helping Florida families pursue the American dream.”
Praising the drop in the unemployment percentage, Republican Party of Florida Chairman Lenny Curry stated in a release that "Florida's underlying fundamentals indicate that Governor Scott has our state back on the right track."
Across the state, the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater region recorded the largest gains, 21,000 jobs between November and December, followed by Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford at 18,900 and Jacksonville with 5,300.
Meanwhile, Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall had a net drop of 3,700 jobs, the largest negative in Florida. The Crestview-Fort Walton-Destin market was down 1,700 jobs and Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach lost 1,200 jobs.
Counties that continue to rely heavily upon government employment, often correctional facilities and military establishments, continue to post the lowest unemployment: Monroe County (4.5 percent), Walton County (5.7 percent) and Okaloosa County (5.8 percent).
Counties with the highest unemployment remain Flagler (11.2 percent), Putnam (10.1 percent) and St. Lucie County (10 percent), which feature communities highly dependent upon agriculture and related industries.
The drop drew Scott praise from business advocates across the state.
Rick McAllister, president and CEO of the Florida Retail Federation
“Florida retailers are continuing to create jobs as the state’s economy improves. We commend the efforts of Gov. Scott and legislative leaders to address the serious issues that have threatened employers over the past year, such as reemployment taxes. Florida retailers have been able to remain competitive and invest in new jobs.”
Florida Realtors® President Dean Asher
"In recent months, Florida's housing market shows growth and positive momentum from increased buyer interest, more closed sales and higher pending sales.
“Mortgage rates are still historically low, and the state's strengthening economy is generating more jobs and boosting buyers' confidence. The Sunshine State is an international destination: Our great climate, beautiful beaches and waterways, famous attractions, culture and lifestyle appeal to people of all ages from all over the world. Florida Realtors' data indicates the state's housing recovery continues to gain traction each month, and we expect those trends to continue this year."
Will Seccombe, President & CEO of Visit Florida
"The Florida tourism industry has seen more than 30 straight months of job growth in the hospitality sector, as well as record increases in visitation and visitor spending.
"Thanks to the continued support of Governor Scott and the Florida Legislature, Visit Florida and our industry partners' efforts to successfully market the Sunshine State have resulted in good paying, career developing jobs for more than one million Floridians."
Carol Dover, President/CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association
"The hospitality industry continues to advance Florida's economic recovery and we are encouraged by the improved employment numbers under Governor Scott’s leadership.
“Florida’s hoteliers and restaurateurs understand the importance of not only catering to our tourism industry, but also encouraging our residents to take advantage of our incredible amenities, which in turn creates more job opportunities for careers in hospitality.”
Doug Wheeler, president of the Florida Ports Council
“Many of the economic indicators in Florida point toward growth, including increased tourism and international trade, bringing a higher volume of freight coming through Florida ports.
“Governor Scott’s focus on invigorating Florida’s economy is resulting in more jobs for Florida families and a better trained workforce for Florida companies.”
Highlights of the latest DEO unemployment report:
• Florida’s unemployment rate has now declined year-over-year for 25 consecutive months.
• Initial claims for re-employment assistance benefits were down by 4.6 percent from one year ago while continued claims were down from an average of 553,000 in December 2010 to 270,181 for the week ending Jan. 12, a 51 percent decrease.
• Florida job postings increased in December 2012 compared to the previous December by 19,380 (+8 percent), for a total of 260,281 openings (seasonally adjusted) according to the Help Wanted OnLine data series from the Conference Board.
• Florida has experienced positive annual job growth now for 29 consecutive months.
• Florida’s job growth month-to-month has been positive for 14 of the last 18 months.
• Florida is expected to create more than 900,000 new jobs by 2018, according to the Florida Economic Estimating Conference.
• The number of available online job openings in STEM-related fields in Florida (sciences, technology, engineering, and math) has sharply increased since last year, up 16.5 percent, for a total of 61,271 postings in December 2012.
• Home sales remain robust as the backlog of existing homes on the market is down by 41 percent from November 2011 (Florida Realtors).
• Florida housing starts were up over the year in November (the most recent month available) by 48.8 percent and median home prices were up 11.2 percent over the year.
• A recent U.S. Census Survey reported that Florida experienced an influx of people moving into the state, with two of the top 10 single destination moves, New York-to-Florida (+59,288) and Georgia-to-Florida migrations (+38,658). Florida also led the nation in migrations from Puerto Rico with a net total of almost 15,000.
• Florida is running a trade surplus of over $24 billion -- with $86.8 billion in exports and $62.4 billion in imports in 2011, up from $73.1 billion in exports in 2010 and $53.2 billion in imports in 2010.
• Consumer confidence in Florida is near a five-year high, according to the University of Florida’s Consumer Confidence Index.
• In December, the state’s 24 Regional Workforce Boards reported more than 42,000 Floridians placed in jobs.
• An individual who receives employment and training assistance through a One-Stop Career Center and finds a job within 180 days is deemed a placement and may be reported by a Regional Workforce Board. Of these individuals, 12,372 previously received re-employment assistance. More than 426,000 Floridians were placed in jobs in 2012, with 111,173 former claimants finding employment.
Reach Jim Turner at email@example.com or at (772) 215-9889.