Florida's unemployment rate reaches 5-and-a-half-year low in December
The Tampa Bay Times' Jeff Harrington reports on the December unemployment numbers announced today:
Florida's unemployment rate fell from 6.4 percent to 6.2 percent in December, reaching the lowest point in five-and-a-half years.
Tampa Bay's jobless rate was even more impressive, dipping below 6 percent, a symbolic threshold indicating a more vibrant economy. Hillsborough and Pinellas counties led the way in the region, with rates in each county falling from 6.1 percent to 5.7 percent. Hernando, long the hardest-hit county in the area, came in at 7.4 percent.
Florida added 14,100 jobs over the month, a noticeable improvement from November but shy of the bump some expected given other early indicators. Job market watchers had been anticipating rosy numbers following a report earlier this month from payroll processor ADP estimating Florida added 25,230 private sector jobs in December, second only to Texas.
Most of the growth came in south Florida, driven by 22,300 new jobs overall in the broad Miami-Fort Lauderdale region. Tampa Bay added a mere 1,300 jobs in the month, but still held on to its crown as the biggest metro job creator year over year, up 35,400 jobs.
To be sure, Florida's unemployment situation still has some severe problems: a disastrous makeover of the state's jobless benefits Web site has thwarted thousands from getting their checks and fueled the trend of discouraged jobless giving up their search. When people stop seeking work, they are no longer counted among the unemployed or as part of the labor force at all.