Good news is spreading!

The Labor Department announced that employers added a net of 200,000 new jobs in December; causing the unemployment rate to fall to 8.5 percent, the lowest since February 2009. The rate has now dropped for four straight months.

Additionally, consumer confidence in the U.S. had risen to its highest level in five months, as Americans’ moods brightened in response to the improving employment picture. Closer to home, consumer confidence among Floridians just rose to its highest level in the past nine months. Naturally, this raises the odds that household spending—which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy—will keep climbing as well.

Foreclosures in Collier County in December dropped to 358 housing units (one in every 543), down 32 percent from 530 in November, and down 18 percent from 437 units in December 2010.

The economic picture in Naples and Southwest Florida has been on the mend for quite some time now. Which seems only fitting, since Florida slipped into recession before the rest of the country; and now is among the first states to be working its way out.