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Jul 18, 11:10 AM EDT

Florida unemployment rate dips slightly in June



TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida led the nation in job growth in June, a sharp turnaround from the previous month.

But the addition of more than 37,000 jobs wasn't enough to push down the state's unemployment rate significantly.

Florida's unemployment rate was 6.2 percent or a slight dip of 0.1 percent from May. The jobless rate has remained largely flat for the first half of 2014.

And for the first time in more than a year, Florida's rate is higher than the national rate. The U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 6.1 percent.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who has made job creation a central focus of his re-election campaign, did not focus on the unemployment rate on Friday, choosing instead to emphasize the number of new jobs that were added.

"This news is great for Florida families, and Florida continues to have great success in our state's economic recovery," said Scott, who announced the new job numbers during a press conference held in Bonita Springs.

Florida led the nation in job losses in May, so the news that the state had rebounded in June is good for Scott. The Republican incumbent ran for office four years ago, promising to create 700,000 jobs over the jobs created by normal growth. The governor has continually suggested that his policies have aided the state's gradual recovery, although that assertion has drawn skepticism and criticism, especially from his political opponents.

Economists have warned this year that the state's unemployment rate will not drop as sharply as it once did.

The state's economy is recovering, but it is a much slower and drawn out recovery than previous ones. A new economic overview released this week by Florida's Office of Economic and Demographic Research predicted that "it will take a few more years to climb completely out of the hole left by the recession."

As the recovery takes hold, people begin looking for work again and that's reflected in the monthly unemployment totals.

Back in December, for example, there was an estimated 584,000 people out of work. The June numbers put the total of jobless Floridians at 597,000.

The new numbers show Walton County in Florida's Panhandle had the lowest unemployment rate at 3.4 percent, while the highest jobless rate in the state is 10.4 percent in Hendry County.

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