TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity released a state and regional jobs report for December, showing that while the national unemployment rate was 3.5%, Florida’s unemployment rate was less, at 2.5% and even lower in Tampa at 2.2%.

In a release accompanying the new data, Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state remains ahead of the United States, saying it has withstood problems from federal policy.

“Florida continues to outpace the nation and withstand negative headwinds due to federal policy,” DeSantis said. “I look forward to building off our success with record tax relief in the upcoming legislative session.”

According to the DEO data, Florida had an increase of 425,800 private sector jobs, with a labor force that grew 3.5%. Nationally, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the December job growth level was 1.6%.

“In December 2022, the Tampa metro area led the metro areas in job gains over the year in other services, increasing by 7,000 jobs; construction, increasing by 6,800 jobs; and information, increasing by 1,100 jobs,” the DEO reported. “The Tampa area’s labor force grew by 65,027 over the year in December 2022, a 4.1 percent increase.”

The Florida labor agency said that December’s data showed there are still “many job opportunities available for Floridians” and that there were over 442,000 openings posted online for residents to apply.

At the end of 2022, DEO said there were more than 9.5 million nonagricultural workers employed in Florida, a 21,400 increase from the previous month. The department said 440,000 jobs were gained over 2022, a 4.8% increase. Nationally, the number of jobs increased by 3%.

“All nine major private sector industries have surpassed pre-pandemic employment levels,” according to DEO.

Private sector job growth wasn’t alone. In the public sphere, Florida government jobs saw a 1.3% increase, with 14,200 new jobs.

However, for the Tampa Bay area, two counties had the state’s highest unemployment rates, according to state data.

While Tampa had a 2.2% unemployment rate, Highlands County had a 3.6% unemployment rate, the state’s highest by county. Citrus County was also among the highest, at 3.5% unemployment. Sebring, in Highlands County, had what DEO called an over-the-year job loss, where unemployment in the area fell 0.4% in 2022.