Fla. unemployment drops to 7.7 percent, lowest leven in more than four years

TALLAHASSEE. Fla. - Florida's seasonally adjusted unemployment dipped to its lowest level in more than four years in February when it dropped to 7.7 percent.

It's the lowest jobless rate in Florida since October 2008 when unemployment stood at 7.4 in the state.

There were 729,000 jobless Floridians in February when the state's unemployment rate was 7.7 percent was the same as the national rate.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott successfully campaigned on creating 700,000 new jobs in Florida over a seven-year span and has made that the primary issue of his administration.

The Department of Economic Opportunity reported Friday that 128,100 jobs have been added in Florida over the past year with the leisure and hospitality industry leading the way with more than 41,000 new jobs.

Unemployment rates fell in 22 U.S. states in February from January, a sign that hiring gains are benefiting many parts of the country.

Nationally, unemployment rates rose in 12 states and were unchanged in 16

The unemployment rate slid to a four-year low of 7.7 percent in February, down from 7.9 percent in January. Since November, employers across the country have added an average of 200,000 jobs a month, nearly double the average from last spring.

States hit hardest during the recession are showing improvement.

In Nevada, unemployment dropped to 9.6 percent last month, down from 11.8 percent a year ago. That's the biggest year-over-year decrease among states.

One reason for the big drop is that people have stopped applying for jobs. Nevada's work force -- those working or looking for work -- fell nearly 1 percent in the year through February. Only those looking for work are counted as unemployed. But hiring accelerated, too: Jobs in Nevada rose 2 percent over the past year.

Unemployment in California fell to 9.6 percent last month, down from 10.8 percent in February 2012.

California and Nevada are still tied with Mississippi for the nation's highest unemployment rate.

North Dakota once again held the nation's lowest unemployment rate, at 3.3 percent. The state is benefiting from a boom in oil and natural gas production. Nebraska had the second-lowest rate, at 3.8 percent.

Overall, 42 states added jobs in February from January, and just eight lost jobs. The biggest monthly job gains came in Texas (up nearly 81,000) and California (up more than 41,000).

In the 12 months up to February, Texas gained nearly 294,000 jobs, and California 128,000. On a percentage basis, North Dakota reported the fastest job growth over the past year, rising 5 percent.

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