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Florida's unemployment rate falls to 3.5 percent while Tampa Bay's rate plunges to 2.9 percent

Florida's economy is continuing to hum along, according to September employment numbers released Friday. The state's unemployment rate dropped to a mark last seen in February 2007 — 3.5 percent, down from 3.7 percent in August.

And compared to a year ago, Florida looks as if it made a significant leap in job gains: leisure and hospitality added 105,200 jobs over the year, construction added 70,700 jobs and the state added 407,300 jobs overall.

The gains look particularly strong, however, because a year ago Florida was recovering from Hurricane Irma, said Mark Vitner, senior economist at Wells Fargo.

And two of the industries that were most affected by the storm were construction and leisure and hospitality.

"It was kind of a statistical fluke from a year ago," Vitner said of the gains. "It makes them look spectacular."

Among the noteworthy over-the-year gains was a manufacturing spike of 19,500 jobs.

"Florida's not known as a manufacturing state," Vitner said. "What we've seen more on the east coast (of Florida) is tremendous growth within the aerospace industry."

The state added a more normalized 16,900 jobs over the month.

"Looking at the month-to-month numbers, we are seeing continuous improvement in the Florida and Gulf Coast economies with solid job gains," Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC, said.

Nationally, unemployment was 3.7 percent in September.

Tampa Bay's unemployment rate plunged to 2.9 percent, down from 3.6 percent in August. Hillsborough County's unemployment rate last month was 2.8 percent, down from 3.5 percent. Hernando County dropped a full percentage point to 3.7 percent from 4.7 percent, while Pinellas County dipped to 2.7 percent from 3.4 percent. Pasco County's rate also declined from 4 percent to 3.2 percent over the month.

Metro area and county job figures are not seasonally adjusted so they are more likely to swing significantly month to month.

The bay area has added 49,800 jobs year over year, trailing Orlando (up 73,300 jobs) and the Miami metro area (up 50,200 jobs).

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Contact Malena Carollo at or (727) 892-2249. Follow @malenacarollo.