Orlando is last in median wages, number one in tourism

Posted Sunday, September 6, 2015 8:25 PM | Contributed by Jeff

Orlando is first as a tourist destination, but dead last on median wages ($29,781), according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Perhaps even more striking, according to the stats that Sentinel data-cruncher Scott Powers and I sorted: We're also No. 1 for jobs that pay $20,000 — with 25 percent of our jobs paying $20,220 or less.

Read more from The Orlando Sentinel.

Sunday, September 6, 2015 8:27 PM

I hear this all the time living here. There is very obviously a serious class divide here. But that said, is there anything anyone can do about it? Is there anything anyone should do about it?

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Sunday, September 6, 2015 8:39 PM

Interesting article.

On the one hand, being a Flaming Liberal, he's pretty much singing my song there. On the other, being someone who reads Business Week for fun, I get that there's a lot in play in Orlando.

Last edited by slithernoggin, Sunday, September 6, 2015 8:40 PM
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Sunday, September 6, 2015 11:49 PM

Jeff said:
is there anything anyone can do about it? Is there anything anyone should do about it?

Yes, people can get the education/training they need to get an advantage in a competitive job market and qualify for higher paying jobs.

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Sunday, September 6, 2015 11:53 PM

Jeff said:

I hear this all the time living here. There is very obviously a serious class divide here. But that said, is there anything anyone can do about it? Is there anything anyone should do about it?

I go back and forth on a lot of the issues surrounding the wage/class divide thing in Orlando, but there's one part that I absolutely don't go back and forth on. There needs to be some sort of control on housing prices, particularly west of the 535 exit on I-4. If you live and work in that direction it can be nearly impossible to find decent living space at an acceptable price, largely due to how much of the new construction is targeted at investor and vacation buying, and the result of areas designed to be permanent residences having been transitioned to vacation rentals and investor purchases driving up purchase and rent prices. In my current subdivision there are areas designated as normal permanent residences and others as vacation/investor homes. Similar floor plans in the vacation home area are listed a good $100k+ above what the list is in the regular home section(s), and it's the same in a lot of other areas seeing mixed use home development. Of course that's translating into the resale and rental market because once the initial developer is out of the picture, prices are leveling out across the board, meaning the permanent residence homes see a quick inflation to the price range of the vacation homes because they can't seem to build them quick enough (which of course affects long term rental pricing as well). Housing to the south and west of central Orlando is just a giant cluster, in my personal experience.

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Monday, September 7, 2015 9:13 AM

Other than Celebration, what housing is there near I-4 west of 535? And why should that area be subject to regulation? If it's on the major interstate and just outside of Disney, that's probably not like any area in the world.

I live in Horizon West, just north of Magic Kingdom. It's all new construction, and while values are going up, it's still averaging less than $125/sq. ft. That seems pretty fair to me. No giant cluster here.

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Monday, September 7, 2015 11:56 AM

I think it makes more sense (particularly on a long term basis) to reduce the number of people who bring only minimum wage skills to the table rather than increasing the minimum wage. Somehow we have to find a way to make education/training more of a priority. And that isn't necessarily saying just spend more money on it (or subsidize it further and then act surprised that costs continue so skyrocket out of control as a result). We spend a ton of money on education. But a lot of kids still get mediocre educations at best. Having watched my kids and their friends over the last 10 years or so, I think if we found a way to put as much time and energy into education (particularly math and science) as we do with sports, we would be in a much better place. But no one packs a stadium or arena to watch science experiments. No last second dramatics in a math competition. Just isn't as cool.

All that being said, I think that we will see more increases in the minimum wage. And more and more elements of socialism put into place (been a steady stream of that for decades). Although most people are not in favor of "socialism," I think a majority of people are in favor of many policies that are socialistic.

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Monday, September 7, 2015 12:15 PM

Very much agree with you on education vs sports. When I was in middle school, the school district had a funding crisis and cut a number of educational offerings -- and sports (which, in Bronson, back then, meant football). There was a fundraising drive... to save the sports. I don't think much has changed in the intervening centuries since I was in school.

Reducing the number of people who bring only minimum wage skills to the table makes me wonder: if the number of people who can up into better jobs increases, who fills the minimum wage jobs left behind? I may be being simplistic, but restaurant tables would still need to be bussed, toilets cleaned and trash cans emptied.

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Monday, September 7, 2015 12:52 PM

If there aren't enough people willing to work minimum wage jobs, employers will need to increase compensation to attract the necessary workers.

I think there will always be a lot of people who only have minimum wage skills. Goal should be to reduce them though. You also will have young people who are in the process of acquiring skills who will work for minimum wage on a temporary basis. People who are between jobs. People looking to pick up so extra money. Minimum wage jobs are not a bad thing. But having them become a way of life is the problem.

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Monday, September 7, 2015 1:00 PM

There will always be jobs that are worth little to do for employers that need to be done. Artifically raising the floor lowers the value of all jobs not boosted by the raise and it doesn't suddenly make those jobs worth that to employers.

I suspect you'd see more employers tie some of those low value responsibilities with other higher value jobs or combining two lower value jobs to create one of higher value.

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Monday, September 7, 2015 1:05 PM

Automation is also a possibility.

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Monday, September 7, 2015 1:19 PM

If less people were willing to do the crappy jobs without being paid more, than pay would raise. McDonald's needs people to work for them no matter what. If less people were interested in working for that low wage, McDonsld's would have to pay more.

I think that's why Walmart raised wages. They realized that if they want better applicants, who can actually pass a drug test, they need to offer more money.

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Monday, September 7, 2015 7:39 PM

Jeff said:

I hear this all the time living here.

Wait, I thought you lived in Washington?

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Monday, September 7, 2015 8:53 PM

Not in four years. I've moved three times since then.

I'm not universally opposed to changes in minimum wage unless it's at the national level. It doesn't make sense. And where it is done, there are consequences of going too high (ask Seattle).

The Orlando area definitely has a working poor problem. It has its share of scary neighborhoods, and the families living in crappy hotels in Kissimmee. I don't buy that Disney, with a voluntary minimum of $10, is a part of that problem. Still, that median seems awfully low. There are thousands of McMansions popping up all over the area... who is buying them?

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Monday, September 7, 2015 9:16 PM

Yes Walmart has raised the hourly wage, then promptly reduced the hours worked. One of the major problems in this country is the mindset that everyone needs to go to college in order to make a living wage. We have abandoned the skilled manual trades starting at the high school level. Until someone finally realizes this the economy is going to be sketchy at best for a long time to come.

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Monday, September 7, 2015 10:10 PM

I don't think it's abandonment as much as a shift to more of a service economy. We simply don't make "stuff" the way we used to, and we don't really even fix stuff anymore, we just throw it away. But even where the skills are in demand, to your point, I don't think they're emphasized enough. Living around new home construction for the last two years, the construction managers say there aren't nearly enough people to do all of the work, so there is demand.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2015 7:27 AM

Never lived there or even been there but I would imagine anytime you have a large tourism draw that is naturally going to lead to lower median wages just because there are so many lower wage jobs in the tourism and service industry. They are all concentrated in that area instead of being spread and there probably isn't much that can be done to change it. Those workers are going to be poorly paid no matter where they live they just all happen to be living and working in the same area so the numbers are skewed downward.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2015 10:12 AM

Yeah, I get that, but perhaps what I wasn't articulating is that Orlando is hardly just a tourism spot. Sure, it's what led to much of its growth, but it's far from the only thing going on here. 1.2 million people live in Orange County, and it almost doubled in the last 20 years. They aren't all making beds or operating Space Mountain. I'm sitting downtown surrounded by tens of thousands of people working on stuff that has nothing to do with theme parks.

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Tuesday, September 8, 2015 10:25 AM

Paisley said:

Those workers are going to be poorly paid no matter where they live...

I think one of the issues facing low-wage workers in Orlando is that the housing market is geared toward upscale owners and renters, making it difficult for low wage workers to find housing. Orlando's underwhelming (according to a friend who lives there) public transit can further complicate getting to and from work for those who don't have/can't afford a car.

(It's not too late to get in on the Four Seasons Private Residences At Disney's Golden Oak At Walt Disney World, by the way, if the other homes in Disney's Golden Oak are too plebeian for your tastes).

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Tuesday, September 8, 2015 3:25 PM

LostKause said:

If less people were willing to do the crappy jobs without being paid more, than pay would raise. McDonald's needs people to work for them no matter what. If less people were interested in working for that low wage, McDonsld's would have to pay more.

I think that's why Walmart raised wages. They realized that if they want better applicants, who can actually pass a drug test, they need to offer more money.

Travis : Walmart raised wages for one reason .Someone that sat on their Board of Directors is running for President(Hillary) Not trying to turn this into a political discussion.If I am right you will see more Minimum Wage Walmart jobs after election .

No matter who wins.

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