Charts paint the picture for the region.
A healthy retail sector is crucial for creating jobs in today's economy, but retail's importance to employment along the Gulf Coast may change over the next decade.
That's one of several important insights that can be gleaned from the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity's latest job projections. On an ongoing basis, the state's statisticians generate their best estimates for what employment throughout the state might look like in the near future. Its most recently available projections are for the year 2024, and while the Gulf Coast economy will likely bear close resemblance to today's environment, several interesting potential changes can be parsed from the data. Those changes include:
Retail trade is the largest component of what labor economists refer to as the Trade, Transportation, and Utilities (TTU) industry, a large grouping that captures how finished goods are moved and sold throughout an economy. Along Florida's Gulf Coast in 2016, TTU companies employed roughly 400,000 workers, making it the largest industry tracked by economists — by a wide margin. The next two largest industries — Professional Business Services (lawyers, accountants, etc.) and Education and Health Services — each only employed about 300,000 workers.
But over the next eight years, those two slightly smaller industries are expected to add more jobs. The Gulf Coast's Education and Health Services industry is expected to grow by more than 60,000 jobs over the next eight years, the data show, while the Professional Business Services industry might add more than 50,000 jobs.
About half the growth in education and health care is expected to come from one subsector: Ambulatory Health Care Services, or outpatient medical services, which could add more than 31,000 jobs over the next eight years. Economists expect it to be the fastest growing subsector on the Gulf Coast.
A similar story may play out at the regional level. For a regional analysis, the state's economists group Florida's counties together into so-called Workforce Development Areas, and on the Gulf Coast there are five such areas: Hernando-Pasco; Hillsborough; Pinellas; Sarasota-Manatee; and Charlotte-Collier-Glades-Hendry-Lee.
As they are built, the area containing Charlotte, Lee and Collier counties is the second-largest Workforce Development Area in the region. But more interestingly, it is also the part of the Gulf Coast where state economists expect the fastest job growth on a percentage basis. Employment in Charlotte, Collier, Glades, Hendry and Lee is expected to grow by more than 14.4% over the next eight years, compared with 11.3% for Hillsborough. The Manatee-Sarasota area is projected for relatively strong Florida Department of Economic Opportunity's latest job projections on growth as well, at 13.9%.
— Alex Walsh