Florida's unemployment rate was lower than the national rate in January for the first time since January 2008.
The unemployment rate dropped to 7.8 percent, as 15,400 jobs were added to the workforce that month, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. It's the lowest unemployment rate the state has seen since November 2008.
The January unemployment rate in Manatee County, at 7.7 percent is down significantly from January 2012 when it was at 9.4 percent. The rate held steady from December 2012 to January 2012. In Sarasota County the unemployment rate was at 8.2 percent, slightly higher than Manatee County, but also down from the year before when it was also at 9.4 percent. It was up slightly from December's 7.7 percent.
The numbers reflect more confidence in the economy, said Sally Hill, communications director for Suncoast Workforce.
"Business confidence is on the rise," Hill said. "The economy is improving."
While the state's numbers are seasonally adjusted, the county numbers are not, so it's impossible to compare them directly. Still, Hill said, in 2012 both Manatee's and Sarasota's unemployment rates were higher than the unemployment rates for Florida and the nation.
"We're below Florida's rate now," Hill said.
Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who has staked his political future on creating jobs, was quick to applaud the report.
"Everything we do is geared toward job creation," Scott said in a news release from his office. "Today we have more proof that it's working."
Florida is among 32 states that experienced statistically significant positive changes in their employment in the past year. Texas led the way with 310,000 new jobs, followed by California with 254,900 and Florida was third with 127,500, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The Manatee-Sarasota Metropolitan Statistical Area showed growth in three particular segments: retail trade; professional and business services and trade, and transportation and utilities. Overall the area added 5,000 between January 2012 and January 2013. More than 3,000 of those jobs were in professional and business services.
Hill said that such a large increase in that sector -- which includes services such as human resources outsourcing -- is a solid indication that business owners are feeling more confident about the economy.
"In a robust economy, we see more of that kind of business contracted out," Hill said. "I think the uptick in retail is another indication that things are improving."
Across the state, there was growth in nearly every segment including manufacturing, construction and financial services.
The February unemployment numbers are set to be released March 29.