Regional Workforce Study Results Released

By April 11, 2017 News, Report

The fourth annual Southwest Florida workforce overview study has been released and provides key information about industries, occupations, employments gaps and projected job growth.

Which Southwest Florida occupations have the largest gaps between the number of workers demanded by employers and the available supply in the labor market?

According to this year’s study, two of the top 10 occupations (registered nurses and physical therapists) are in the health care industry, which compares from four of the top 10 in the previous year’s report. Others include retail supervisors, supervisors for food preparation and serving, retail salespersons, maintenance and repair workers, construction trades supervisors, landscaping and groundskeepers, financial service sales agents and administrative supervisors.

The study is conducted annually by Workforce Now, a research initiative that studies the regional workforce and is comprised of researchers from Florida Gulf Coast University, Hodges University and Florida SouthWestern State College. Workforce Now is a partner in the FutureMakers Coalition, a cross-sector coalition from Hendry, Glades, Collier, Lee and Charlotte counties with the shared goal of closing the higher education gap and, more importantly, retaining those high-skilled Southwest Floridians in jobs within the region.

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity study/data identified 4,725 current employment gap positions for Southwest Florida, signifying a 40-percent increase (or 1,353 positions) compared to the figure reported in the Workforce Overview Study for 2015.

“The findings support that economic recovery continues with employment and unemployment rates reaching levels closer to long-term values,” said Dr. Aysegul Timur, Dean, Johnson School of Business Hodges University. “For instance, when we compare to the last year’s data, the Southwest Florida largest industries ranking remains the same, where the construction industry has the most employment gain by approximately 13 percent, continuing to rebound from the great recession. On the other hand, the last year’s top-ranked employment gap, registered nurses, changed from -534 to -114 positions in the present study.”

The top 10 projected high demand regional growth occupations for 2015 to 2023 include retail salespersons, waiters and waitresses, food preparation and serving workers, cashiers, landscaping and grounds keeping workers, secretaries and administrative assistants, registered nurses, carpenters, customer service representatives and construction laborers.

Additional findings of the study include:

  • The data show consistency with those of last year, in terms of the positions listed, median wage, and minimum education required. There was a small amount of fluidity in the order and type of positions listed. For instance, registered nurses fell from 1st to 8th in terms of short-term employment gaps in the present survey; meanwhile, its median wage rose a mere 21 cents.
  • Economic recovery continues with employment and unemployment rates reaching levels closer to normal long-term values;
  • Southwest Florida has 539,261 employed workers, compared to 9.68 million employed in Florida and 157.13 million for the nation;
  • The average annual Southwest Florida wage is $40,189 compared to $45,562 for Florida and $52,876 for the nation;
  • The largest industries by employment are retail trade (19.0%), accommodation and food services (15.5%, same as last year), health care and social assistance (13.8%, down from 14.1% last year), construction (10.6%, up from 9.9% last year), and administrative and waste services (7.1%, same as last year);
  • The largest industries by wage income are health care and social assistance (17.6%, down from 18.1% last year), retail trade (13.9%, up from 13.8%), construction (11.1%, up from 10.3%), professional and technical services (8.6%, up from 8.3%), and accommodation and food services (8.4%, same as last year, but down to 5th from 4th);

“It remains the case that the demand for jobs in our region is in those industries based on retirement and tourism,” said Dr. Christopher Westley, Director,  Regional Economic Research Institute Lutgert College of Business, Florida Gulf Coast University.  “This fact alone goes far in explaining why our region’s wages lag the state’s.  It underscores the need for industry diversification too.

WorkForce Now will be presenting the results at the 2017 Florida College Access & Success Summit on May 11 in Orlando.

The full study can be downloaded from the Regional Economic Research Institute’s web site at


The FutureMakers Coalition is one of Lumina Foundation’s 75 national Community Partners in Attainment. Residents are encouraged to join and support this community-changing initiative. For more information, visit, call 239-274-5900 or email Tessa LeSage at [email protected]