Pinellas County’s not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate declined slightly to 3.1% in July compared to 3.2% the month before, according to the report released Aug. 16 by the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

The county’s labor force, which topped 500,000 in June, continued its steady rise, growing to 504,086. Only 15,865 were reportedly unemployed, 376 fewer than last month.

The not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater Metropolitan Statistical Area also declined slightly going from 3.5% in June to 3.4% in July. The state’s rate remained steady at 3.5% and the national rate increased from 3.8% to 4%.

The local MSA, which includes Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties, fell to third place in terms of over-the-year job gains after holding on to second place for most of the year. In July, 23 of the state’s 24 metro areas had over-the-year job gains. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford held on to its first place standing with 49,000 new jobs. Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall took the second place spot with 31,700 jobs and Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater came in at a close third with 31,500 new jobs.

Panama City MSA reported over-the-year job losses of 2,400.

Health and education were the industries reporting the highest over-the-year growth with 7,300 new jobs in the Tampa area followed by professional and business services with 6,700 new jobs.

The Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area remained first among the other metro area in job demand in July with 57,835 openings and it continues to rank No. 1 in the state in demand for high-skill, high-wage STEM occupations with 18,560 openings last month.

Pinellas had the lowest unemployment rate of the four counties in the local MSA, tying with Orange and Seminole counties for the rank of No. 61 among the state’s 67 counties. Hillsborough County tied with six other counties for the rank of No. 46 with an unemployment rate of 3.4%.

Pasco County tied with two others for the rank of No. 28 with an unemployment rate of 3.8%, and Hernando County tied with two other counties for the rank of No. 9 with an unemployment rate of 4.5%, the highest in the MSA.

Hendry County ranked No. 1 with an unemployment rate of 8.2%, the highest in the state, and Monroe County ranked No. 67 with the lowest rate, 2.3%.

The Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater MSA tied with three other metro areas for the rank of No. 16 among the state’s 24 metro areas. Homosassa Springs MSA and Sebring MSA tied for the No. 1 spot with an unemployment rate of 5.2%, and Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin took the No. 24 position with an unemployment rate of 2.8%.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.