BROOKSVILLE - Hernando County's unemployment rate was 8.6 percent in February, the second straight monthly increase.
The 8.6 rate is up from 8.3 percent in January. One year ago, the rate was 9.7 percent.
Hernando County tied for fourth place with Putnam County for the highest jobless rate in the state.
Florida's February rate was 6.3 percent, unchanged from January. The nation's rate was 7.0 percent, also unchanged from a month earlier.
Between January and February, 985 more people entered the county workforce but the number of employed people increased only by 726, which explains the unemployment rate jump, said David Hamilton, program manager with the Pasco-Hernando Workforce Board.
Hernando County not only was among the top four counties in Florida for unemployment, it also performed worse than surrounding counties.
Hillsborough and Citrus counties, for example, stayed the same at 7.3 and 7.5 percent, respectively. Pinellas County saw its rate decline from 6.4 to 6.3 percent. Pasco County rose from 7.2 to 7.3 percent.
Hamilton said he prefers to look at March numbers and see if Hernando continues the upward trend before becoming too worried.
"Is the problem worsening or flat-lining? We'll probably need another month to see that," he said.
Monroe County had the state's lowest unemployment rate - 3.8 percent - in February. Hendry County had the highest rate at 9.8 percent.
State officials, including Gov. Rick Scott, saw positives in the February numbers.
"Job creation is the key to an opportunity economy, and February was a very strong month on this score," Jesse Panuccio, executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity, stated in a news release. "We continue to have a lower unemployment rate than the nation. Our record job demand is a promise for the future for families that were devastated by the recession."
Said the governor: "It is clear that businesses are growing and creating more jobs and opportunities for Floridians. We are moving Florida's opportunity economy forward, and the addition of more than 32,000 private sector jobs in (February) is great news for Florida families."