The number of Franklin County’s unemployed continued their gradual increase last month, putting the situation roughly at the point where it was one year ago.

According to preliminary data released Friday by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the July unemployment rate, which stood at 4.2 percent in June, rose two-tenths of 1 percent to 4.4 percent.

The labor force dropped by seven workers to 4,912, and 12 people joined the jobless rolls, hiking them to 217 people in search of work.

The current work force has fewer workers than one year ago, when it comprised 4,937 workers, and the jobless rate was slightly higher at 4.5 percent.

The July jobless numbers tied Franklin with Wakulla for sixth best in the state, just ahead of Walton at 4.3, Okaloosa and Lafayette at 4.1; St. Johns at 3.8; and Monroe County best at 3.3 percent joblessness.

While the statewide unemployment rate was posted at 5.1 percent for July, the local three-county region remained under 5 percent, a continued sign of a recovering and stabilizing economy. Bay County rose from 4.7 to 4.8 percent, and Gulf County’s jobless rate rose from 4.2 to 4.5 percent, both considerably better than their 5.4 percent rate of one year ago.

As a whole, the region’s July 2016 unemployment rate of 4.8 percent was one-half of 1 percentage point lower than the year- ago rate of 5.3 percent. Out of a labor force of 100,578 there were 4,805 unemployed residents in the region.

In July 2016, nonagricultural employment in the Panama City MSA was 83,700, an increase of 400 jobs (+0.5 percent) over the year. The Panama City MSA in July had the fastest annual job growth rate compared to all the metro areas in the state in education and health services (+6.4 percent). In addition, professional and business services (+7.3 percent); manufacturing (+2.8 percent); and government (+1.5 percent) industries grew faster in the metro area than statewide over the year.

“We’re very pleased to see the rate of job growth not only in the education/health sector, but also in the professional and business services sector,” said Kim Bodine, executive director of CareerSource Gulf Coast. “We know that tourism and the associated service industries are primary economic drivers in our region, but we’re seeing positive growth in a number of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields.”

The latest data from Conference Board Help Wanted OnLine, for example, notes year-over-year regional increases for registered nursing (10.3 percent), and network/computer systems administrators (26.9 percent). In all, there were 532 full-time STEM jobs advertised locally in July.

The industries gaining in jobs over the year were professional and business services (+700 jobs); education and health services (+700 jobs); leisure and hospitality (+200 jobs); government (+200 jobs); manufacturing (+100 jobs); and financial activities (+100 jobs).

The trade, transportation and utilities (‐1,500 jobs); and information (‐100 jobs) industries lost jobs over the year. The mining, logging, and construction and other services industries were unchanged.

CareerSource Gulf Coast provides services to job seekers and employers in Bay, Gulf and Franklin counties. During the month of July, the region’s Panama City Job Center assisted more than 1,600 walk-in customers, and provided services to more than 400 employers.

Offices are operated in all three counties. Visit www.careersourcegc.com to learn more about professional workforce development and job placement services, all offered at no charge.