Orlando Economy: Overcast with Bright Spots


The Orlando area’s economy still looks bright relative to the rest of the state and nation. / photo by Maria Padilla

The watchword for 2016 economic growth in Central Florida is “deceleration.” The latest forecast by University of Central Florida economist Sean Snaith calls for mostly less growth, compared with 2015, but with a few bright spots.

Snaith’s report, delivered at the annual Orange County Economic Summit, stated it’s likely that in Florida:

  • Personal income growth will slow to 4.8 percent in 2016, compared with 5 percent in 2014. However, the outlook looks much better for 2017 and 2018.
  • Payroll job growth will “ease” over the next three years to 2.3 percent in 2016 versus 3.2 percent in 2015. It slows to an anemic 1.7 percent in 2018.

The good news comes in the form of lower gas prices, which directly translates to money in consumers’ pocket. Lower fuel prices – gas costs around $1.72 a gallon in the Orlando area, less in a few  competitive pumping stations – tend to help low income people the most by conserving limited disposable income, which can be spent on other things.

If you’re looking for a job, Orlando is still a good place to be, since its 2.9 percent job growth is the highest in the state. Unemployment is forecasted to remain under 5 percent, according to Snaith, moving it closer to a job seeker’s market, which will help those Hispanic newcomers who possess the skills to step right into a job.

In addition, when workers become scarcer it tends to push up wages – an important issue in a low-wage, tourism-dependent state like Florida. Don’t forget: Walt Disney World is still the region’s largest employer by a very large margin – nearly 70,000 workers compared with 22,000 for the Orange County Public Schools, the next largest employer.

Construction jobs will grow the strongest at 6.6 percent, the economist said. That sector usually hires a lot of Latino laborers. That is followed by professional and business services (4.2 percent) and educational and health services (2.6 percent).

˜˜ María Padilla – Editor

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