- Associated Press - Friday, March 28, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Florida added thousands of jobs last month, but new numbers released on Friday showed that the state’s overall unemployment rate is remaining steady.

The state’s jobless rate in February was 6.2 percent, which is the same rate it was the previous month. There are estimated 588,000 people out of work in the Sunshine State.

The unemployment rate held steady even though the state gained an estimated 33,400 jobs last month. Only California and Texas gained more jobs in February.

While the overall statewide number remained unchanged, some counties - including ones such as Duval, Hernando and Manatee - reported a rise in unemployment.

Gov. Rick Scott stressed the job gains on Friday during an appearance at the Port of Tampa, saying the latest numbers continue to show that businesses are growing in the state. Scott maintains his policies since becoming governor in 2011 have helped the state’s economy recover.

“It is clear that businesses are growing and creating more jobs and opportunities for Floridians,” Scott said in a statement. “We are moving Florida’s opportunity economy forward.”

State economists have said a big reason for the unemployment rate decline since December 2011 is that people are leaving the labor force or had delayed their job search.

But Sean Snaith, an economist at the University of Central Florida, said the latest numbers are signs that people are beginning to look for work again. That’s why the addition of jobs did not change the overall rate.

“I think it’s consistent with a recovering labor market,” said Snaith.

But Snaith cautioned that as people start looking for work again it will make it more difficult for the unemployment rate to drop in the months ahead.

That could be a bit of trouble for Scott since has made the state’s economic recovery a centerpiece of his 2014 election campaign. Scott has routinely touted unemployment numbers every month.

Florida initially reported earlier this month that the January employment rate was 6.1 percent. That figure was revised back up to 6.2 percent with the release of new data on Friday.

Federal statistics showed that Florida’s gain of more than 33,000 jobs last month was the third highest in the nation. Florida has also gained more than 211,000 jobs in the last 12 months. California led the nation, followed by Texas.

The leading industries that are adding jobs are professional and business services, construction and the leisure and hospitality areas, including increases in jobs at restaurants and bars.

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