Tourism still monster employer, but other industries gaining foothold

The Orlando Eye stands as one of Orlando's tallest attractions and looks down on the city's changing business environment.

Orlando continues making strides to diversify its job base, while still contending with the consistent and giant role that tourism plays.

Since at least dating back to 1991, one in every three jobs in in the metro Orlando area has been in the consumer, hospitality or retail fields, jobs that make the area a tourism mecca. And with new features such as the Orlando Eye opening, tourism is pretty much guaranteed to remain solid.


But underneath that juggernaut, there is an evolution going on, with more business and professional services and health care picking up a share of the 1.15 million people that work in the Orlando metro area.

Business and professional services, a catchall for such fields as corporate employment, law, accounting, management positions, scientific research and technology, is especially important as a barometer of business health. And this field has grown to 16.7 percent of Orlando metro area workers from 15.8 percent in 2002 and 7.2 percent in 1991, according to June figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.


Business and professional services are key to making the area a business center, said Mekael Teshome, economist at PNC Bank. "They are generally high wage jobs that can require advanced degrees and generate a lot of economic activity."

With the aging of the population, the share of employment in health care has increased, now at 12.2 percent compared with 9.5 percent in 2000. Teshome expects that share to grow.

One area that has seen little growth is financial services, now at 6.4 percent, virtually flat with  6.3 percent in 2000. This area includes bankers, investment advisers and money managers.

And manufacturing has shrunk, going to 3.5 percent from 5.8 percent in 2000 and 8.4 percent in 1991, part of a national trend.

Orlando has "the potential," but it is also very vulnerable to "boom and bust cycles that make it difficult," Teshome said. "It will take persistence, investments in key areas like infrastructure and education and ensuring that business costs are competitive."