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Oct 17, 2:57 PM EDT

Florida's jobless rate dipping slightly



TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida's unemployment rate dipped slightly last month, giving incumbent Gov. Rick Scott a bit of good news as he remains deadlocked in a tight battle for re-election.

The state's jobless rate in September was 6.1 percent, or a drop of 0.2 percent from the previous month. The rate is the lowest it has been since June 2008.

The dip comes during a year in which the state's unemployment rate has moved very little. Florida's rate is above the national average of 5.9 percent.

Still, the news gave Scott a chance to tout the recovery of the state's economy since he took office in January 2011. The month before he took office the state's unemployment rate was hovering around 12 percent, with more than 1 million people were out of work. The figures released Friday by state labor officials say that about 590,000 are now jobless.

"Our policies are working in Florida, and more and more Floridians are able to get a job and support their family, and we will keep working until every Floridian who wants a job can get one," Scott said.

Scott has made the economic recovery a key part of his re-election strategy against Democrat Charlie Crist. He has faulted Crist for job losses that occurred on his watch. Crist, however, has countered that it is wrong to blame him for the global economic meltdown and recession that occurred while he was in office.

When Scott campaigned in 2010, he pledged to add 700,000 jobs within seven years above the 1 million jobs that would occur with normal growth. State documents show that roughly 392,000 jobs have been added to the state's labor force since December 2010. Scott, however, focuses on the number of "private sector" jobs that have created since that time. That number is higher because it does not include the loss in government jobs that have occurred over that same period.

Scott has maintained that his push for tax cuts, the elimination of hundreds of state rules and cuts in government spending have helped the economy since that time. Economists have countered that a big reason for the initial drop in the state's unemployment rate was that many Floridians dropped out of the workforce.

But that has changed as the recovery has begun to take hold. Economists have said a key reason the rate has not dropped significantly this year is that more people are beginning to look for work again.

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