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.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015 4:06 PM

Are hourly workers at Disney / Universal able to work 50, 60, 70+ hours a week if they desire to?

I know this is completely typical of workers at the regional parks. Just asking out of pure curiousity.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015 5:00 PM

I doubt it, in part because they would be required overtime. Regional parks often have exemptions to overtime because they're seasonal.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015 9:55 PM

Jeff said:

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?

To answer your post after mine, the US 27 corridor and portions off of 192 is a big housing area, also a majority of what I refer to in my post. And I'm not really sure how to address it, because the problem (from my view) is on the secondary market where "vacation homes" that initially sell for what seems to be a good bit above their comparable permanent residence value in the investor market push up the value of the permanent residences that share not only that area in general, but often the same subdivision (again, from what I can see and understand).

As to the bold in the quoted post, investment groups and wealthy foreigners that don't actually live in them. Actually, I think Orlando could soon run into the kind of issues that NYC is facing with the mostly empty mega condo high rises, if we're not already there just without the publicity that the high rises provide. In the subdivision off Poinciana Blvd. some of my in-laws live in they're basically surrounded by homes that are owned by wealthy Brazilians that are either rarely used or rented out to the owners' friends/relatives, or by investors/groups purely as vacation rentals. While we were looking for a new place to live earlier this year I typically found that long term rental homes (i.e. permanent residences) located in subdivisions or areas that also had enough vacation homes the rent prices were higher, comparatively. In addition there have been a few apartment complexes in the attractions area that decided to turn into condo communities, effectively evicting the current tenants (my wife was offered the chance to buy her then current apt. at a ridiculous price, and much higher than what the units have listed for since they made the transition) and driving up demand for the remaining immediate area complexes resulting in raised rents due to the increase in demand.

While houses and condos are a great vacation lodging option, they seem to be creating real problems when it comes to permanent residences in their area and the work force they're intended for.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015 10:28 PM

I don't think we're talking about the same thing. The McMansions aren't investment properties. There are only two rentals on my street of 30 or so homes. I'm literally two miles (line of sight) to Cinderella Castle. The phenomenon you describe is definitely geographically constrained. It's not happening in Horizon West, the eastern parts of the county, etc. New, they're still selling under $120/sq. ft. I was almost asking a rhetorical question, because I already know the answer. The larger job market for technology, aerospace, marketing in every industry, etc., there are a ton of jobs in those areas. I don't know what percentage of WDW workers are making $10/hr., but I imagine it's less than half. Combined with the other theme parks and service industry, I don't imagine the adult portion of the 1.2 million people in Orange County (plus those in northern Osceola County) are all working tourism/service jobs. There's way more going on in Orlando.

If you want to talk about ridiculous real estate pricing, look at Seattle. That's out of control.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015 10:41 PM

Yeah, Horizon West is a completely different game. North of I-4 and east of WDW property is surprisingly not seeing the kind of investment and vacation real estate action that I'm so used to south and west of WDW/I-4, despite a new general purpose (i.e. tourist-friendly) entry being built for the property. I think there's also some zoning differences in play as well, as I'm quite literally yards from the Polk county line (thank goodness, the utilities, water especially, average 3x what I pay in Osceola and paid in Orange). I'm sure my frames of reference on the issue being central Ohio and NE Indiana affect how I view this as well.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015 8:51 AM

Presumably its the folks at the top portion of the income distribution who are buying the big houses. But the median itself doesn't say much at all about the top income levels (or the bottom for that matter). Top could be 100 times the median or 10,000 times the median.

Using a 2,080 hour work year (which I think the BLS typically uses based on 40 hr week/52 week year), 25% of the people in Orlando are making $9.72/hr or less. Half are making about $14.32 or less. Not sure how many in either group are working at Disney, Universal, etc. Doubt that info is published but maybe it is. The parks know.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015 8:59 AM

Jeff said:

I doubt it, in part because they would be required overtime. Regional parks often have exemptions to overtime because they're seasonal.

Ah yes. And I believe in most states they're therefore tied to laws that also regulate seasonal agriculture work which means no overtime, and 14 - 16 year olds can work up to 40 hrs / week (maybe this varies by state, not sure).

So Orlando's economy basically has a glut of people working around $10/hr for 40 hours a week or less combined with the money generated from tourism and a real estate market that is also full of vacation homes and investors. My knowledge of economics ranges from about zilch to zero but that does sound....messy. And complicated.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015 10:24 AM

It is, and like I said, Orlando isn't just about tourism. The longer I'm here, the more surprised I am at just how robust the technology scene is here. Yes, the theme parks have an enormous footprint, it's just not the only thing. Anecdotally, I notice that a fairly large percentage of front line theme park people are college kids, but every ride crew or counter service staff has one or two "older people." I often wonder if they're part of the working poor. You definitely see them in the hotels.

I don't know that there's anything you can do about the class divide. It seems like there is available housing in the sub-$900 rent category, but very little of it is anywhere near the theme parks. I'm not sure I understand if that's a problem or not. Public transportation isn't terrible here, and especially if you work on I-Drive, it's easy enough to get up to those less expensive areas that form a band from north of Universal, to the east and south of downtown.


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