TAMPA — The Tampa Bay area continues to lead the state in job creation, adding 41,400 jobs last year and boasting an unemployment rate of 4.4 percent.
That beat the national unemployment rate of 5.0 percent, which was matched by the state, where the rate dropped one-tenth of a percentage point in December.
“It is exciting that the Tampa area continues to lead the state in job creation,” said Gov. Rick Scott in an announcement on his signature issue. “As more businesses choose to invest in Tampa, more Floridians are able to find the opportunities they need to succeed.”
The rate for the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area was down from 4.6 percent in November and 5.3 percent in December 2015.
The industries with the largest gains in jobs over the year locally were education and health services, with 11,300 new jobs; leisure and hospitality with 11,100 new jobs; and professional and business services with 10,400 new jobs.
The state Department of Economic Opportunity said the Tampa Bay area was first among the state metro areas in job demand in December with 44,797 openings. It was also first in the state in demand for high-wage, high-skill STEM jobs — those in science, technology, engineering and math, with 13,582 openings.
J.P. DuBuque, head of the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp., credited government and economic boosters working together.
“The county and the cities, and all the EDCs, all are working together toward the same thing, and that is to show we are a business-friendly environment and we are a place where businesses want to expand,” he said.
“Success begets success,” he added, citing the August announcement that global health care giant Johnson & Johnson would open a new North American shared services headquarters here, an earlier announcement that drugmaker Bristol Myers Squibb will settle here, and insurer USAA’s expansion into its Crosstown facility.
“I think that you see that success happening, and other people figure there’s got to be something there — and there is.”
The Orlando area was runner-up to the Tampa Bay area, adding 35,500 jobs last year.
The unemployment rate in Hillsborough County was 4.3 percent in December. In Pasco, it was 5.0 percent; in Pinellas, 4.2 percent.
Monroe County had the state’s lowest unemployment rate at 3.2 percent, while Hendry had the highest at 7.3 percent.
Florida hasn’t seen a 5.0 percent unemployment rate since the pre-recession period of January 2007. The rate has been steadily falling since hitting 11.2 percent in January 2010.
“Business in Florida is thriving, and the state continued its strong record of private-sector job creation to close out 2015,” said Cissy Proctor, executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.