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TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – Florida’s unemployment rate held steady at 3.3 percent as 2018 ended, while Hurricane Michael’s impact continued to be felt in parts of the Panhandle.

An estimated 335,000 Floridians were out of work in December from a labor force of 10.28 million, keeping the state mark below the national unemployment rate of 3.9 percent.

The two counties that sustained major damage in Hurricane Michael continued to struggle with the effects of the October storm. Gulf County posted the state’s highest unemployment rate, 7.9 percent, followed by Bay County at 5.9 percent.

The Department of Economic Opportunity noted the December numbers for the Panhandle counties “reflect the continued impacts from Hurricane Michael.”

The state’s lowest unemployment rates were found in Monroe County, at 2.6 percent, followed by St. Johns and Okaloosa counties, each at 2.7 percent. Orange, Seminole, and Union counties were each at 2.9 percent.

Over the past year, Florida’s biggest gains in new jobs were in education and health services, which grew by 54,000 jobs, a 4.2 percent increase for the combined fields, according to state figures. Jobs in leisure and hospitality grew 3.7 percent, up 45,800 positions, while professional and business services were up 39,300 jobs, a 2.9 percent increase. Construction saw 34,900 new jobs, a 6.7 percent increase for the industry.

Government work declined by 9,800 jobs, which was due to less local government hiring.

(©2019 CBS Local Media. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.)

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