MIAMI (AP) -- Florida's unemployment rate ticked down another notch last month — handing Gov. Rick Scott another piece of good news to boast about as he edges closer to the 2014 election.
The state's May unemployment rate was 7.1 percent — a drop of 0.1 percent from the previous month.
But the drop is tempered by the fact that the actual numbers of jobs in the state declined last month by 6,200. Labor officials use two different surveys to calculate the two economic measures.
Additionally, state economists this week released their own analysis that shows a key reason for the unemployment rate decline in Florida has been people leaving the labor force or delaying looking for a job.
If the same number of people were in the workforce now as were at the end of 2011, then the unemployment rate would be 8 percent.
Scott, who has made job creation his primary focus since winning office, was scheduled to arrive Friday back from a week-long trade mission to Paris. He took time during his visit abroad to shoot a video where he stressed that the state's unemployment rate remains below the national average.
"Each month we continue to distance ourselves from the national unemployment rate and it is clear we are succeeding in growing opportunities for Florida families to pursue the American Dream," he said in a statement.
The May rate is the lowest it has been in Florida since September 2008. There are now an estimated 671,000 Floridians out of work.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Florida has gained the third highest number of jobs in the nation since last year behind the states of Texas and California. The major areas of job growth have been in trade, transportation and utilities, while the state has shed jobs in government and manufacturing.
During his trip the Scott administration announced that several companies were relocating or expanding operations in the state. The governor's office announced on Thursday that a medical information technology company will expand its national headquarters in Ormond Beach while another company is relocating its headquarters from New Jersey to Amelia Island.
Scott in recent appearances has made sure to mention that the state is overall adding jobs — in contrast to the four years under former Gov. Charlie Crist. Crist, who unsuccessfully sought the U.S. Senate three years ago, is considering mounting a bid against Scott in 2014.
But Scott so far has refrained from mentioning Crist directly by name when talking about the state's economy. That hasn't stopped the Republican Party of Florida. Shortly after the new numbers were released, the party sent out a graph comparing what it called the "Crist Crash" to the "Scott Surge."
The ongoing back-and-forth over the jobless numbers will likely become a major theme in the 2014 election and will likely spark a debate over who deserves the credit.
A poll released earlier this week by Quinnipiac University said that 65 percent of Floridians who think the economy is improving give at least a little credit to President Barack Obama. But that same poll — which had a plus or minus error margin of 2.9 percent — found that 82 percent credit Scott.
"The governor needs to make voters believe he is responsible for a better economy. That's the key to his electoral future," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
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