Franklin County’s jobless rate moved further below the 5 percent threshold in February, dropping to just a tad better than the state average.

According to preliminary data released Friday by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, the unemployment rate, which stood at 5.0 percent in January, fell to 4.6 percent, as the labor force expanded slightly, although it remained smaller than one year ago.

The unemployment rate fell as 17 people left the jobless rolls, dropping them to 213 people in search of work.

The rate of joblessness occurred as 47 people joined the county’s workforce, boosting it to 4,660 people. The current work force has 58 fewer workers than one year ago, when it comprised 4,718 workers, and the jobless rate was higher at 5.4 percent.

The February jobless numbers moved Franklin closer to the statewide unemployment rate of 4.7 percent. The county is now at 27th best in the state, behind Baker, Palm Beach, Gulf and Hamilton counties at 4.5 percent, Sarasota, Nassau, Union, Broward, Collier and Walton at 4.4; Lee, Santa Rosa, Clay, Manatee, Hillsborough, and Pinellas at 4.3; Leon, Okaloosa, Bradford, Seminole and Orange at 4.2; Wakulla at 4.1; Alachua at 4.0; Lafayette at 3.9; St. Johns at 3.5; and Monroe County best at 3.1 percent joblessness.

Unemployment across the tri-county Gulf Coast region also decreased, as Bay dropped from 5.7 to 5.1 percent, and Gulf from 5.1 to 4.5 percent. The Gulf Coast rate was 1.1 percentage point lower than the region's year ago rate of 6.1 percent. Out of a labor force of 96,524 there were 4,813 unemployed residents in the region.

Industries gaining in jobs over the year were education and health services (+800 jobs); leisure and hospitality (+300 jobs); mining, logging, and construction (+200

jobs); manufacturing (+100 jobs); professional and business services (+100 jobs); and government (+100 jobs). The information, financial activities, and other services industries remained unchanged over the year., and just one sector – trade, transportation and utilities – showed job losses over the year (-200).

“We’re seeing both growth in the local labor market and a fairly steady unemployment rate,” said Kim Bodine, executive director of CareerSource Gulf Coast. “These are positive economic indicators for the region. We also have a number of big hiring events over the next few weeks.”

Upcoming hiring events include the 12th Annual Career Expo on April 13 at the Holley Center on the campus of FSU-PC, which targets resume-ready professionals looking for their next career. Others will be held at the Panama City Job Center, and include hiring for multiple full-time and part-time positions by two new restaurants.

CareerSource Gulf Coast provides services to job seekers and employers in Bay, Gulf and Franklin counties. Visit www.careersourcegc.com to learn more about professional workforce development and job placement services, all offered at no charge.