Florida’s unemployment rate held steady for the second month in a row. Joblessness in the Tampa Bay metropolitan area crept up slightly in July, but so did the number of people looking for work.
New jobless numbers released Friday by the state Department of Economic Opportunity show that the state unemployment rate for July was 6.2 percent. That’s the same rate it was the previous month.
The state’s unemployment rate is equal to the national rate. Last month, Florida’s rate sat just above the U.S. rate.
In the Tampa Bay region, though, unemployment stood at 6.8 percent in July, up from 6.3 percent in June, but down from July 2013, when it was 7.6 percent.
In Hillsborough County, specifically, unemployment was 6.6 percent in July, down from 7.4 percent, year over year but up slightly from 6.2 percent in June.
“Unemployment rising is never a good thing, so you need to examine the reasons,” said Dave Sobush, business intelligence manager for Hillsborough County’s Economic Development Department. “In the case of Hillsborough, we gained jobs, but not fast enough to absorb all the people looking for work.” In July, he said, 300 more people were looking than in June.
The smidgen of good news for Hillsborough County this year is that higher paying jobs in the professional, technical and scientific realm are up by 5 percent, he said. “That means sources of new money to the economy, because those people are selling products or services outside of the county and that’s how you build prosperity.”
Construction jobs went up 10 percent in the first quarter of the year in Hillsborough County, he said, and management jobs were up 9 percent.
“Year over year, we are still trending in the right way, which is downward and our labor force is growing, which means citizens are more apt to seek job opportunities than they were a month ago,” Sobush said.
“When the unemployment rate goes down,” he said, “that might mean people gave up looking.”
In Pinellas County, the jobless rate for July was 6.4 percent, down from 7.4 percent in July 2013, but up slightly from June’s 6 percent.
The unemployment rate in Pasco County climbed from 6.9 percent in June to 7.6 percent in July, but it was also down year over year from 8.3 percent in July 2013. Hernando County, which also falls within the same metropolitan statistical area, showed the highest regional unemployment rate for July at 8.4 percent, up from 7.5 percent in June , but down from 9.4 percent in July 2013, according to state records.
The new numbers show that Florida lost 1,600 jobs overall in July, after leading job growth nationwide last month. There were an estimated 597,000 people in July looking for jobs in the state, compared to 688,000 looking for jobs in Florida in July 2013. Florida has added 208,000 jobs in the last year, according to the state.
Economists have warned that as more people begin to seek jobs again, the state’s unemployment rate is not likely to drop like it has the previous three years.
Still ,the flat numbers are a political setback for Gov. Rick Scott, who has made jobs a central part of his re-election campaign. He campaigned in 2010 on a pledge to add 700,000 jobs above normal growth over a seven-year period. Whenever the state’s unemployment rate dropped, Scott would contend that his policies helped with the turnaround.
But on Friday, Scott did not mention the overall monthly drop in jobs and highlighted instead that the number of private-sector jobs has increased overall.
“Every new job positively impacts a family and today’s announcement is more great news for Florida families looking to live the American dream in the Sunshine State,” Scott said in a statement. “Florida continues to see positive job growth highlighting our economic recovery.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.