Florida’s unemployment rate dropped in January, but so did number of jobs

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Unemployment in Florida dropped to 9.6 percent in January, down from 9.9 percent in December and more than a full percentage point lower than it was a year ago, the Department of Economic Opportunity announced Tuesday, reports David Royse of the News Service of Florida.

That rate is the lowest since March 2009, DEO said.

While the drop marks a noted improvement in Florida, the state’s unemployment rate remains among the highest, and is still more than a full percentage point above the national unemployment rate of 8.3 percent.

And on another down note, while the jobless rate dropped from December to January, the number of employed people in the state actually went down by more than 38,000, from 7.33 million to 7.29 million, a 0.5 percent drop, after a year of mostly seeing job growth. That’s the result of a smaller labor force, due to people no longer looking, possibly because they’ve moved elsewhere.

Construction continues to be a problem sector in the state, with 6.3 percent fewer jobs in January 2012 compared to a year ago. But some of that was offset by growth in the service sector and retailing, which saw a 3.3 percent increase.

Air transportation has added nearly 9,000 jobs over the last year, and the health care sector has seen job growth. Amusement parks employed almost 5,000 more people in January than a year ago, according to DEO figures.

The state’s labor force in January was pegged at just under 9.3 million. Of those, 894,000 were looking for work, DEO said.

At 13.5 percent, Flagler County had the highest unemployment in the state in January. The lowest rate was in Monroe County, home to the Florida Keys, where only 5.7 percent of workers were unemployed.

Counties with jobless rates above 11 percent included Hernando, St. Lucie, Putnam, Hendry, Dixie, Marion, Madison, Citrus, Hamilton and Pasco.

In addition to Monroe, Walton and Okaloosa both had jobless rates below 7 percent.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.