Jobless figures for Manatee and Sarasota counties dropped sharply in April as the Florida unemployment rate reached its lowest percentage in almost a decade, more signs that the job market is tightening around the Sunshine State.
According to figures released Friday by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the unemployment rate last month in Manatee County was 3.6 percent, down from 3.9 percent in March and 4.2 percent in April 2016.
The numbers were similar in Sarasota County: A jobless rate of 3.7 percent in April, down from 4.0 percent a month earlier and 4.4 percent a year ago.
3.6 percentThe unemployment rate for Manatee County in April, according to the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity
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Those drops coincided with Florida’s unemployment figure, which ticked down to 4.5 percent, the lowest since September 2007. The rate was 4.8 percent in March and 4.9 percent in April 2016.
Florida’s unemployment rate remained slightly higher than the national rate of 4.4 percent.
The sharp drops locally and across the state come as state lawmakers “turn their backs” on economic development programs such as Enterprise Florida and Visit Florida, Gov. Rick Scott said in a news release.
“Now is not the time to slow down our unrelenting efforts to bring more jobs and opportunities to our state,” Scott said, noting that attempts to cut programs were “not only disappointing, but could put our future job creation efforts at risk.”
Scott recently made nine stops across the state as part of his “Fighting for Florida’s Future” barnstorming tour, including one in Manatee County.
Professional and business services saw the largest growth in April, adding 39,500 jobs from a year earlier, according to the DEO. That was followed by trade, transportation and utilities with 36,600 new jobs; construction with 34,400 new jobs; education and health services with 32,700 jobs; and leisure and hospitality with 30,500 jobs.
Twenty-three of the state’s 24 metro areas saw year-over-year jobs gains, with the Bradenton-Sarasota-North Port region seeing a 2.9 percent improvement.
According to state officials, Florida’s unemployment rate has dropped 6.2 percentage points since December 2010, while the national rate declined only 4.9 percentage points during the same period.
Moreover, during the past year, approximately 371,000 people entered the labor force in Florida, a growth of 3.8 percent, while the national labor force grew at only 0.8 percent.
“Unemployment continues to drop, private sector jobs are on the rise and Florida families are flourishing,” said Cissy Proctor, the executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. “We must not give up on our efforts to make Florida the best place to start and grow a business.”
By the numbers:
April unemployment figures, according to the Florida Department of Economic opportunity:
Manatee County, 3.6 percent
Pinellas County, 3.6 percent
Sarasota County, 3.7 percent
Hillsborough County, 3.7 percent
United States, 4.4 percent
Florida, 4.5 percent