According to analysis from the Pew Research Foundation, Orlando's attempt to diversify its economy by moving away from tourism and towards technology has resulted in booming population growth and more low-wage jobs in tourism, retail, restaurants and the service industry. Orlando has a higher rate of these types of lower paying professions than the rest of the county. While the population in Orlando has expanded 51% over the past 17 years, nearly three times the national average, wages have only increased 5% as compared to the U.S. average of 17.9%.

The same is the case in some other Florida cities, including Lakeland, Ocala and Sarasota, and in other major tourism towns such as Las Vegas. The Nevada gambling powerhouse is ahead of only Orlando with the most hotel rooms in the nation, according to hotel data and analytics firm STR. The population has grown by 58 percent, while wages have grown only 1 percent, Pew’s study found.

“Places like Las Vegas and parts of Florida have seen their growth on the back of very low-wage jobs, so in a sense they’re growing poorer as they grow,” Paul Flora, an economic analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, told Pew. The issue worsened after the recession, when Florida lost many mid- and high-wage jobs, said Sean Snaith, director of the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Economic Competitiveness. Low-wage tourism jobs recovered first.
“The rest of the Florida economy, it was really 2012 before things started to take off again,” Snaith said. “Tourism had a head start.”

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