March 2021 employment highlights how Orlando’s Leisure and Hospitality industry continues to rebound. The following key takeaways from the monthly jobs report focus on the most recent data available for the Orlando region.

As we seek to help the region navigate the economic disruption, we have insights into new economic data to share with you. On April 16, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity released March 2021 employment data that confirmed our suspicions that the Leisure and Hospitality industry is continuing to rebound in Orlando. The following key takeaways from the monthly jobs report focus on the most recent data available for the Orlando region (Lake, Orange, Osceola and Seminole Counties). This month we highlight how multiple months of strong job gains relate to increased job posting trends and consumer spending in the region.

Multiple Months of Jobs Gains

Over the last two months, Orlando added 18,500 jobs back to the economy, 11,900 of which were in the Leisure and Hospitality (L&H) industry. Jobs also returned in Education and Health Services (3,000) and Construction (1,400) over this same period. This growth has come from a ramp up in hiring in both the entertainment and recreation sub-industry (i.e., theme parks, museums, attractions, etc.) and accommodation and food services (i.e., hotels, restaurants, and bars). See Figure 1 below.

This rapid rehiring is likely contributing to the returned growth of Orlando’s labor force. Through December 2020, the region’s labor force shrank considerably as one in 10 workers left the regional job market entirely. Since December, this trend has reversed as individuals are simultaneously re-joining the labor force and immediately being hired in restored positions. See Figure 2 below. This trend is apparent in regional job posting data as well. From February to March, Orlando job postings in the accommodation and food services industry jumped 89 percent from 2,830 postings in February to 5,252 in March, the highest single-month count in 10 years. See Figure 3 below.

Job gains in Leisure and Hospitality and other industries are due to spending increases across the state. Currently, consumer spending is 17 percent above a pre-pandemic baseline in Florida. Restaurant and hotel spending specifically is six percent above the baseline and, while entertainment and recreation spending is 17 percent below pre-pandemic levels, this is a huge improvement over the -46 percent spending seen as recently as February. This strong jump can be attributed to increased confidence as vaccinations embolden consumers and they widen the range of activities they deem safe.  

Implications

We expect to see this hiring and employment surge continue as more people are vaccinated , pent up demand for recreational activities is unleashed and the weather warms. Previously, we had hypothesized that some jobs may not return in the same capacity as technology took the place of certain aspects of customer check-in and the guest experience. But, according to Jon McGavin, area general manager of the Ritz-Carlton Orlando, they are finding that “human interaction is a huge need right now.”

“Phone call and check-in times have doubled. Guests want to understand what is open. Fewer business travelers but more vacation travelers are leading to more time at check-in and on the phone.”

The Wall Street Journal recently published a piece suggesting the job market is tighter than one might think. While demand for talent is on the rise, fewer people are re-entering the job market because they may be performing caregiving duties, afraid of catching the virus, or potentially sidelined due to more generous stimulus payments. Simultaneously, national hiring trends are shifting away from requiring a four-year degree and focusing on a candidate’s exact skillsets for hiring and promotions. The percentage of job postings requiring a bachelor’s degree or higher is at its lowest level in years.

In this surprisingly tight labor market, skills-based hiring is one tactic for increasing candidate diversity, filling open positions, and making the right hire the first time. As the regional employment rebounds and you look to re-hire the best talent, I encourage you to explore a skills-based hiring strategy. You can read more about skills-based hiring here. You can find more data on the state of employment in the region here.

Figure 1 – Employment Gain, January to March 2021

Figure 2 – Size of the Regional Labor Force

Figure 3 – Job Posts by Industry