Florida's economy in 2012 grew at the fastest pace in six years.
But it still lags the national average and, given the economic crater created by the Great Recession, has a long way to go to full recovery.
Florida's gross domestic product grew 2.4 percent to $672.3 billion in 2012, just shy of the national growth rate of 2.5 percent, according to Labor Department statistics released Thursday.
That's a marked improvement from both 2010 and 2011 when Florida's economic output rose less than 1 percent each year. In 2009, during the trough of the recession, the state's economy plummeted by nearly 6 percent.
"It's indicative of a national recovery in general … but we're looking for a better rebound in Florida because it fell so far in the downturn," said Scott Brown, chief economist for Raymond James Financial in St. Petersburg.
He predicts the 2013 figures will be much stronger after the state's impressive job creation so far this year. Since December, Florida's unemployment rate has dropped from 7.9 percent to 7.2 percent while its workforce has grown by more than 60,000 jobs.
Florida's economic growth has been partially muted because many of the newly minted jobs are in industries such as tourism, retail and health care which pay less than those jobs lost in hard-hit industries like construction, government, manufacturing and information. In calculating the GDP of states, the Labor Department includes the sum of all incomes earned, capital and costs incurred in producing goods and services.
A dozen states grew faster than Florida, led by North Dakota which, fueled by a mining boom, grew a whopping 13.4 percent in one year. Other top economic engines included Texas (up 4.8 percent), Oregon (3.6 percent) Washington (up 3.6 percent) and Minnesota (up 5 percent).
Only one state, Connecticut, had a drop in GDP, down a tenth of a percentage point from 2011.