State's jobless rate remains mixed bag
TALLAHASSEE (AP) -Highlands County's unemployment rate for August dropped slightly compared to July but its jobless rate is the 12th highest in the state. The state released new unemployment rates on Friday that show that Florida's unemployment rate has dropped to 7 percent in August. It had been stalled at 7.1 percent for the previous three months. Highlands County's unemployment rate for August was 8.8 percent. In July, it was 9.1 percent and 10.5 percent last August. Henry County continues to lead the state's jobless rate at 15.4 percent for August. Monroe County, at 4 percent, had the lowest jobless rate out of Florida's 67 counties.Gov. Rick Scott touted the news at a morning press conference he held in Melbourne, but a closer look at the numbers shows that one reason the rate dropped was that the state's overall labor force shrank. And a separate survey showed that the state actually lost nearly 5,000 jobs last month after months of positive job growth. California and New York, by contrast, added around 30,000 jobs last month. Scott has tried to recruit companies from both states by arguing that Florida has lower taxes and a better regulatory environment for businesses. In spite of Friday's news, the state's overall unemployment remains lower than the national average, and Florida has seen the largest rate drop in the country in the past year. Scott, who is making the state's economic turnaround the centerpiece of his re-election campaign, said in a statement that the decrease in the rate continues to be "evidence that our pro-growth and business friendly policies are working." State economists, however, released an analysis this summer that showed a key reason for the unemployment rate decline has been people leaving the labor force or delaying their search for a job. There are now an estimated 656,000 people out of work in the state. And while the unemployment rate has gotten better since Scott took office in 2011, the U.S. Census released information this week that showed household income remains stagnant in Florida almost five years from the start of the recession. Some of the state's largest cities rank in the bottom in income levels for the nation's most populous metro areas. Florida's median household income in 2012 of more than $45,000 decreased slightly from the previous year, but the change was statistically insignificant. However, Florida's median household income is down more than 11 percent from $50,700 in 2000. Only seven other states had larger decreases in the past dozen years, the Census figures showed. Nationally, the median household income was $51,371 in 2012. Of the nation's 10 most populous states, Florida's median household income was the lowest.