Florida’s and Collier County’s unemployment has dropped below 10 percent.
Gov. Rick Scott captained a brief conference call Friday to tout Florida’s 9.9 percent seasonally adjusted unemployment as evidence that his strategy for putting the state back to work is successful. The figures represented Florida’s best unemployment rate since April 2009 when 9.7 percent of the workforce was idled.
Collier County’s unemployment fell from 10 to 9.5 percent for December. That’s down 2 percent (from 11.5 percent) in the past year.
Lee County’s unemployment ratew remains above 10 percent but fell slightly (10.5 to 10.2) in the past month and is down 2.4 percent over the past year.
Scott campaigned on creating some 700,000 new jobs over a seven-year period assuming he’d win re-election in 2014. He said his strategy has led to the creation of 140,000 new jobs since he took office in January 2011.
“These changes include streamlining government, removing barriers to job creation and eliminating burdensome regulations,” said Scott, who didn’t take questions afterward.
Florida’s unemployment rate is still significantly above the 8.5 percent national unemployment figure and represents 913,000 eligible workers who are still hunting for jobs across the state. Florida has lagged behind the national figures for nearly four years.
“This commitment to business prosperity is working,” said Scott, a Republican. “Florida’s job creators are responding. “
But Rod Smith, chairman of the Democrat Party in Florida, was quick to chastise Scott for killing more jobs than he’s created.
“Scott has favored an extreme agenda that has rejected jobs and slowed growth,” Smith said in a statement from the party’s Tallahassee headquarters that credited President Barack Obama’s leadership with the improved job numbers in Florida.
Smith said the governor’s policies have led to thousands of teachers, firefighters, police and corrections officers being laid off and that he rejected federal dollars for high speed rail that could have led to up to 26,000 new jobs.
The leisure and hospitality area has rebounded with 30,400 more jobs over the previous 12 months while 7,900 government jobs at the local, state and federal level disappeared over that period.
The hardest hit metropolitan region was that surrounding the Kennedy Space Center in east-central Florida where 3,500 jobs have vanished, many as a result of the shutdown of NASA’s 30-year-old shuttle program.
Flagler County, a short drive north of the Space Center, suffers from the state’s highest unemployment with 13.9 percent unemployment with Hendry County in the southwestern part of the state not far behind at 13.5 percent unemployment.
Monroe County, which has 73,000 residents who live mostly in the Florida Keys, reported the strongest employment with 6.2 percent of its workforce sidelined. Many of the counties with low unemployment were those with high proportions of government employees.