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Florida Unemployment Hits Lowest Point in Two Years, Scott Announces

October 20, 2011 - 6:00pm

Gov. Rick Scott declared Florida is bucking the national trend Friday in job creation as the state surpassed the national growth rate for the first time since November 2007.

Florida is on the right track thanks to the collaborative effort of the Florida Legislature, who last session passed business tax cuts and shared my vision for making Florida the best state in the country to do business, Scott said.

Floridas unemployment rate came in at 10.6 percent in September after holding at 10.7 percent since June, according to the Department of Economic Opportunity.

Even with 984,000 listed as out of work, the rate is the lowest since August 2009, said Agency for Workforce Innovation's chief economist Rebecca Rust.

A year ago, the unemployment rate stood at 11.8 percent.

Scott announced the September numbers in a conference call from Brazil, where he is leading an economic trade mission.

I am even more pleased, and I think everybody would be, with our job creation numbers, Scott said. This year, Florida has gained 110,300 private-sector jobs, while shrinking the size of government. Thats a net gain of 23,300 jobs in September alone, and a total net gain of 92,400 jobs since January.

More significantly, Floridas September 2011 annual job growth percentage rate, which is 1.3 percent, outpaced the nation (1.1 percent) for the first time in three and a half years, since February 2007. So thats great news."

The states dip comes a day after the U.S. Labor Department reported new applications for weekly unemployment benefits had fallen to a six-month low.

The national unemployment rate, announced Oct. 7, stood at 9.1 percent for September, with roughly 14 million listed as unemployed.

Overall, 7,253,900 Floridians were working last month, 93,500 more than a year ago.

According to the state agency numbers, the counties with the highest unemployment rates remain Hendry (17.6 percent, down from 17.9 percent in August), Flagler (14.6 percent, down from 14.9 percent), Indian River (13.7 percent, down from 13.9 percent), Hernando (13.5 percent, down from 13.9 percent) and St. Lucie (13.4 percent, down from 13.7 percent).

The lowest unemployment rates are found in Monroe --6.7 percent, the same as in August --followed by Liberty and Walton.

The fields of leisure and hospitality had the largest growth, growing by 58,500 jobs between September 2010 and September 2011. The field has grown 46,600 jobs between August 2010 and August 2011.

State, county and local governments lost 14,000 jobs in September after shedding 20,400 positions in August. Construction jobs fell by 12,900 in September, after 17,600 positions were eliminated in August.

Doug Darling, director of the new Department of Economic Opportunity, noted that there remain 977,000 Floridians eligible for unemployment.

We must continue our efforts of coordinated economic development to create jobs and ensure our work force is skilled and ready to be matched with employment opportunities, Darling stated in a release.

The September unemployment numbers were viewed by business leaders as a strong signal that Floridas economy is strengthening.

This is welcome news, and an indicator that Florida is well on track to add more than 100,000 net new jobs this year, Mark Wilson, president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, stated in a release. Creating greater economic certainty will further solidify the confidence of job creators and allow the private sector to move more Floridians from the unemployment lines into jobs.

By putting the long-term health of Florida ahead of short-term politics, Florida can once again lead the nation in private-sector job creation and show Washington and competing states how its done.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, expressed confidence Florida is moving in the right direction.

And while this is encouraging news, we also recognize that we still have a long way to go, Haridopolos stated in a release. The Florida Senate will continue to work to provide stability and predictability for our states business owners and entrepreneurs, as well as pursue an agenda that is focused on job creation and economic development.

Read the state's unemployment report here.

Reach Jim Turner at or at (850) 727-0859 or (772) 215-9889.

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