Florida jobless rates up slightly in February

Credit: AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Florida’s jobless rate ticked up in February for the second straight month, according to numbers released Friday by the state Department of Economic Opportunity.

The 3.5 percent unemployment rate represents 357,000 Floridians out of jobs from a workforce of 10.34 million. The state’s unemployment rate was 3.4 percent in January. With drops in jobs involving transportation, warehousing and utilities and information fields, 5,000 more Floridians were out of work in February than in the January estimate.

During the first two months of the year, the number of unemployed people in Florida grew by 12,000. The February jobless number, however, is 37,000 fewer than a year earlier. The state rate remains below the national unemployment rate of 3.8 percent, which was down from 4 percent in January.

Across the state, a noticeable change in the February numbers is that the Panama City metropolitan statistical area no longer held the highest unemployment rate. The area’s 5.1 percent mark equaled The Villages metropolitan statistical area and was lower than the 5.3 percent of the Homosassa Springs region.

The Homosassa Springs metropolitan statistical area was at 5.9 percent in January. The Panhandle region including Panama City had posted the highest unemployment rate since it was hit by Hurricane Michael in October.

Its number dropped from 6.1 percent in January. On a county basis, Gulf County, which is east of Panama City and sustained heavy damage in Hurricane Michael, had the highest rate in February at 6.2 percent.

Bay County, which includes Panama City, fell from 6 percent in January to 5 percent in the latest numbers, putting it below the 5.3 percent for Citrus County and 5.1 percent for Hardee and Sumter counties.

At the other end, Monroe County maintained the lowest unemployment rate at 2.4 percent, down from 2.8 percent in January. Monroe County was followed by St. Johns County at 2.9 percent and Okaloosa and Wakulla counties at 3 percent.

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