TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose to 8.8 percent in July after several months of showing improvement.

The state's unemployment rate remained at 8.6 percent in June for a second straight month. Florida's July figures were half a percentage point higher than the national average of 8.3 percent.

"Month-to-month numbers are going to vary, but the long-term trend is positive," said Lane Wright, press secretary for Gov. Rick Scott. The governor traveled to Tampa on Friday to help celebrate the opening of a new business that hopes to add 300 employees. "The underlying economic data is extremely encouraging. Florida is moving in the right direction."

Wright points to growth in private sector jobs and exports as good signs for Florida's economy in the long haul.

Florida's July figures reported by the Department of Economic Opportunity represented 816,000 unemployed in an available workforce of nearly 9.3 million.

The message on Scott's answering machine Friday still touted the state's progress on the jobs front. The Republican governor campaigned on creating 700,000 new jobs in Florida in seven years.

"What we're doing in Florida, we're hoping could be a model for the rest of the country," Wright said. "With a federal partner in the White House who understands Gov. Scott's vision, we can just increase that."

Some Republicans have worried that Scott's focus on better times ahead in the Sunshine State could boomerang on Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney's chances of winning Florida in November.

Twenty of Florida's 67 counties reported double-digit unemployment in July, an increase from 16 in June.

About one of six eligible workers in Hendry County in southwest Florida were on the unemployment rolls where seasonal declines in agriculture and related industries were blamed for the downward trend there. About one of eight people were looking for work in St. Lucie County and Flagler counties along the state's eastern shore.

The state's southernmost county, Monroe, had the lowest unemployment at 6.3 percent. Monroe and several other counties with a high proportion of government jobs had the fewest number unemployed.