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Jobless rate drops to 8.5 percent, lowest in four years


Florida labor officials say the state’s unemployment dropped to its lowest mark in nearly four years in October with 8.5 percent of the workforce still hunting for jobs.

Although the figure is an improvement from September’s 8.7 percent unemployment in Florida, it remains higher than the 7.9 percent national average.

In Alachua County, the unemployment rate is 6.2 percent, according to data from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. Marion County’s rate hovered above the state’s average at 9.1 percent. Putnam County had the state’s fourth-highest rate at 10.3 percent unemployment. Hendry County, located in southwest Florida, had the state’s highest mark with 12.6 percent unemployed.

Last month’s state unemployment rate was 1.7 percentage points lower than the October 2011 rate. October 2012 claimed the lowest mark since December 2008, when it was 8.2 percent.

Across the state, 14,700 jobs were added last month. Florida has added jobs for the 13 of the last 16 months, according to data from the state.

Unemployment and job creation were a major part of the debate between President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who promised to create 12 million new jobs if elected. Gov. Rick Scott has been quick to boast of improvements in the state’s unemployment numbers to the chagrin of Republicans anxious to blame Obama for high unemployment.

Florida’s October 2012 annual rate of job growth increased 0.9 percent, which is slower than the national job growth rate, which is 1.5 percent, according to data from the state.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

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