Florida's unemployment rate increased to 8.8 percent in July; Collier rises sharply

Gov. Rick Scott talks with Capitol reporters Wednesday, June 20, 2012 in Tallahassee, Fla., after a luncheon speech.

Gov. Rick Scott talks with Capitol reporters Wednesday, June 20, 2012 in Tallahassee, Fla., after a luncheon speech.

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney leaves a fundraiser in Charlotte, N.C., on Wednesday Aug. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/The Charlotte Observer, Todd Sumlin)

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney leaves a fundraiser in Charlotte, N.C., on Wednesday Aug. 15, 2012. (AP Photo/The Charlotte Observer, Todd Sumlin)

— Collier County’s unemployment rate jumped by nearly a full percentage point in July while the state’s increased to 8.8 percent, prompting the Republican Florida governor’s office to say the state still is moving “in the right direction” and Mitt Romney’s campaign to blame President Obama for the jobs failure.

With the presidential campaign focused on improving the job market, the Department of Economic Opportunity announced Friday it was the first time in several months that the unemployment rate worsened in Florida.

Florida’s July rate was half a percentage point higher than the national average of 8.3 percent.

Collier’s unemployment rate was 9.7 percent in July, compared with 8.8 percent in June. Lee’s rate was 9.7 percent in July, increasing from 9.3 percent in June. Last year, Collier’s unemployment rate was 11.6 percent in July; Lee’s was 11.8 percent in July 2011.

“More than 800,000 Floridians remain jobless, 42 months after Barack Obama and (former Gov.) Charlie Crist stood on stage in Fort Myers and promised spending money we could not afford would lower the unemployment rate,” said Jeff Bechdel, the Florida spokesman for presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign. “Despite the work of pro-growth leaders in Florida, which has yielded positive results, today’s jobs numbers prove that without new leadership in Washington, the number of unemployed and underemployed Americans will continue to remain unacceptably high. This can’t be the new normal.”

An Obama for America-Florida campaign official declined to comment Friday on the latest jobs figures.

But Gov. Rick Scott said the overall picture when looking at several months is positive, and noted the state has high numbers of online job ads.

“While the unemployment rate can vary from month to month, Florida continues to see positive private-sector job growth,” Scott said in a statement. “My goal remains the same, to make Florida the No. 1 business destination in the world by improving the state’s economic climate, highlighting our talented and skilled workforce and getting Floridians back to work.”

The governor traveled to Tampa on Friday to help celebrate the opening of a new business that hopes to add 300 employees.

“Of course, we still have a long way to go, but Florida is moving in the right direction,” Lane Wright, press secretary for Gov. Rick Scott, said in an email.

Wright points to growth in private sector jobs and exports and home prices on the rise as good signs for Florida’s economy in the long haul.

“We have about 130,000 more jobs now than we did in December of 2010. Florida exports are up 11.2 percent over last year,” Wright said in an email. “Consumer confidence improved three points in July and housing starts and home prices are on the rise.”

Florida’s July figures reported by the Department of Economic Opportunity represented 816,000 unemployed in an available workforce of nearly 9.3 million.

The message on Scott’s answering machine Friday still touted the state’s progress on the jobs front. The Republican governor campaigned on creating 700,000 new jobs in Florida in seven years.

Some Republicans have worried that Scott’s focus on better times ahead in Florida could hamper presidential hopeful Romney’s chances of winning the state in November.

Twenty of Florida’s 67 counties reported double-digit unemployment in July, an increase from 16 in June.

Posted earlier

Florida’s unemployment rate increased to 8.8 percent in July while Collier's jumped by nearly a full percentage point, state officials said Friday.

The Department of Economic Opportunity announced it was the first time in several months that unemployment rate worsened in Florida.

Collier County’s unemployment rate was 9.7 percent in July 2012, compared with 8.8 percent in June 2012. Lee County’s unemployment rate was 9.7 percent in July 2012, increasing from 9.3 percent in June 2012.

Last year, Collier’s unemployment rate was 11.6 percent in July; Lee’s was 11.8 percent in July 2011.

Florida's July figures were half a percentage point higher than the national average of 8.3 percent.

"Month-to-month numbers are going to vary, but the long-term trend is positive," said Lane Wright, press secretary for Gov. Rick Scott. The governor traveled to Tampa on Friday to help celebrate the opening of a new business that hopes to add 300 employees. "The underlying economic data is extremely encouraging. Florida is moving in the right direction."

Wright points to growth in private sector jobs and exports as good signs for Florida's economy in the long haul.

Florida's July figures reported by the Department of Economic Opportunity represented 816,000 unemployed in an available workforce of nearly 9.3 million.

The message on Scott's answering machine Friday still touted the state's progress on the jobs front. The Republican governor campaigned on creating 700,000 new jobs in Florida in seven years.

"What we're doing in Florida, we're hoping could be a model for the rest of the country," Wright said. "With a federal partner in the White House who understands Gov. Scott's vision, we can just increase that."

Some Republicans have worried that Scott's focus on better times ahead in the Sunshine State could boomerang on Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's chances of winning Florida in November.

Twenty of Florida's 67 counties reported double-digit unemployment in July, an increase from 16 in June.

About one of six eligible workers in Hendry County in Southwest Florida were on the unemployment rolls where seasonal declines in agriculture and related industries were blamed for the downward trend there. About one of eight people were looking for work in St. Lucie County and Flagler counties along the state's eastern shore.

The state's southernmost county, Monroe, had the lowest unemployment at 6.3 percent. Monroe and several other counties with a high proportion of government jobs had the fewest number unemployed.

EARLIER:

Florida unemployment figuring in presidential race

TALLAHASSEE — Florida's unemployment numbers seem to be falling into the category of politics makes strange bedfellows.

The state releases it unemployment figures for July on Friday. They've shown steady improvement for the most part the past several months, which has been trumpeted loudly by Gov. Rick Scott.

Some Republicans are concerned that Scott's continued praise of Florida's slowly improving unemployment figures works to the benefit of President Barack Obama in the general election.

Scott has made job creation the hallmark of his administration and he has touted Florida's rebound in the job market to the chagrin of Republican colleagues who worry his enthusiasm serves to boost Obama's chances to carry Florida's 29 electoral votes in November. Florida's unemployment rate stood at 8.6 percent for a second straight month in June.

__ The Associated Press and David Royse of the News Service of Florida contributed to this report.

© 2012 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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