MANATEE -- The holidays brought more cheer to the region as retail and tourism helped the unemployment rate drop one more month here and statewide.
In addition to the typical economic drivers for this time of year, business and professional services added about 2,000 jobs to the region.
Manatee County's unemployment rate fell to 6.2 percent in November, down from 6.6 percent in October and 7.9 percent this time last year. In Sarasota County, the unemployment rate is 6.1 percent, down from October's 6.4 percent and from 8 percent the same time last year. In Florida, the November rate dropped to 6.4 percent, or the lowest it has been since July 2008.
Sally Hill, communica
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tions director for Suncoast Workforce, noted that this is also the peak season for agriculture.
While she acknowledges that the economy is "still improving slowly," she said officials with her agency are "optimistic" as things continue to "move in the right direction."
"We're seeing entry-level jobs, to jobs that pay well over six figures," Hill said. "We have high-skilled technical jobs available and jobs in manufacturing. We're very busy with all kinds of positions available requiring all kinds of skills and abilities."
Florida's unemployment rate fell 0.3 percentage points in November to 6.4 percent as the state added 6,100 jobs. The unemployment rate is down from 8 percent just one year ago.
Gov. Rick Scott announced the new numbers in Orlando, where he maintained that his push for tax cuts and budget cuts has created an "opportunity economy" that has created more jobs.
While Scott maintains his policies have helped Florida's recovery, economists say there are other reasons for the decline: People are leaving the labor force or had delayed their job search. Nearly 600,000 people in the state remain out of work. The state Office of Economic and Demographic Research said in a report released earlier this week that Florida's real unemployment rate would be 8.3 percent if the amount of people in the labor force had held steady since December 2011.
"The job market will take a long time to recover," the Office of Economic and Demographic Research said.
Scott has made the state's improving economy the centerpiece of his 2014 re-election campaign. He has repeatedly reminded people that the state's unemployment rate soared during Charlie Crist's four years in office. Crist, who was a Republican when he was governor, has switched parties and is now running against Scott as a Democrat.
The state's job growth over the last year has been in trade, transportation, utilities, professional and business services, construction and in tourist-related businesses.
-- Material from the Associated Press was used in this report