POLL: Florida unemployment: Jobless rate worsens for the third straight month

More than 1 million eligible workers are without a job in the state

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— Florida's unemployment rate worsened in September for the third straight month, falling to a seasonally adjusted 11.9 percent in the final reporting period before the Nov. 2 election.

Roughly 1.1 million eligible workers remain jobless in Florida, the Agency for Workforce Innovation said Friday. The financial, construction and manufacturing industries have been hit hardest while health care and government jobs remain the most stable.

Republican Marco Rubio, who leads in polls in his bid for the U.S. Senate, was quick to blame Florida's troubles on federal policies.

"Over these final 11 days before Election Day, I will continue discussing our ideas to grow the economy and cut spending as a clear alternative to the direction Washington has taken us," Rubio said in a campaign statement.

The U.S. Labor Department reported that Florida was among 11 states where unemployed increased in September compared to 23 states that showed improvement.

Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running as an independent against Rubio and Democrat U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek, was not immediately available for comment on the latest unemployment figures.

Florida's figures remain well above the national average of 9.6 percent and a tick higher than its revised unemployment rate of 11.8 percent in August.

More than one of every five workers in Hendry County in southwest Florida were looking for jobs last month, AWI reported. That county's 20.2 percent unemployment rate was the highest in the state.

Flagler County along the Atlantic Ocean in northeast Florida reported a 16.3 percent unemployment rate while St. Lucie and Indian River counties - a bit further south on the Atlantic coast - were each above 15 percent.

Rural Liberty County in the Florida Panhandle and home to a state prison reported the lowest unemployment in the state with 7 percent of eligible workers looking for jobs in September. The other counties with low unemployment were those with a high percentage of government jobs.

Florida's unemployment rate peaked in March at 12.3 percent, the highest since the federal government began compiling jobless statistics in the 1970s. The state's healthiest employment figures were in May 2006 when only 3.3 percent of the workforce was idled.

The unemployment statistics can actually improve despite the weak hiring environment if workers stop searching for jobs and drop out of the labor force in which case they wouldn't be counted as unemployed.

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