TALLAHASSEE (SBSMiami/NSF) – There was little fanfare from Gov. Rick Scott’s office Friday to herald the monthly update of the state’s unemployment rate, which ticked up slightly from April to May and now matches the national mark of 6.3 percent.
The state rate, still significantly below the 7.5 percent mark of a year ago, has been mostly flat this year, wavering from 6.2 percent in February to 6.3 percent in March and back to 6.2 percent in April before the May increase.
The unemployment numbers, which have been a focus of Scott’s re-election campaign, represent an estimated 606,000 jobless Floridians out of a workforce of 9.6 million.
Unlike in past months, there was no advanced notice that Scott would release the numbers first on Twitter or at a special event somewhere in the state. Instead, a statement was issued on the Department of Economic Opportunity website following the monthly release, focusing on Florida leading “the states in job gains, unemployment rate decline, and growth in job demand.”
“Long-term trends demonstrate that Florida’s poised for success,” Scott said in the release. “Private sector job trends have been on the rise for over three years, our unemployment rate has declined or remained steady for 43 of the last 45 months, and for the fifth month in a row our labor force has grown. Florida’s had an amazing turnaround, and we have to continue working everyday to create jobs for families.”
Scott’s campaign has made the economy, and private sector job creation, a focal point of numerous commercials that compare the current economic numbers with those during the term of former Gov. Charlie Crist. Crist, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination to oppose Scott in November, was in office as Florida struggled through the national economic recession.
A spokesman for Crist’s campaign called the release “a gymnastics show.”
U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the largest over-the-month decrease in employment — 17,900 jobs — occurred in Florida, which was followed by Arizona and Illinois.
The largest over-the-month increases in employment occurred in Texas, Pennsylvania, and New York.
While the DEO release pointed to the steady rise of private-sector jobs and the growth of the labor pool, counties with the highest proportion of government jobs continue to rank among those with the lowest unemployment marks.
Northwest Florida’s Walton County maintained the lowest unemployment rate in May at 3.4 percent, up from 3.2 percent. It was followed by Monroe County, at 3.6 percent; Okaloosa County, at 4.4 percent; and Alachua County and Wakulla counties, 4.8 percent each.
On the other end of the spectrum, Southwest Florida’s Hendry County had the highest unemployment rate in May, at 9.4 percent. It was followed by Flagler County, at 8.6 percent; and Hamilton County, at 8.5 percent.
The News Service of Florida’s Jim Turner contributed to this report.