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Old postcard showing Citrus Tower in the 1950s
Credit: Koppel Color Cards

Real Estate Directly Responsible for 16% of Fla.’s Economy

Myth: In Fla.’s economy, citrus is second to tourism. Fact: Real estate sales and leasing are far-and-away Fla.’s No. 1 industry. It makes up 16% of the state’s economy ($173B per year), according to an analysis of North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) data.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Myth: In Florida’s economy, citrus is second only to tourism.

Fact: Real estate sales and leasing are far-and-away Florida’s No. 1 industry.

Real estate is 16% of Florida’s economy ($173 billion per year), according to an analysis of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) data by Mark R. Howard, executive editor of Florida Trend.

Sixty years ago, a ride to the top of Central Florida’s Citrus Tower in Clermont yielded a view of orange groves as far as the eye could see. Today the same can be said for its view of housing developments and commercial property.

In an editorial, Howard pointed out the changing economic impact of real estate after a recent Washington Post article claimed that citrus was “the state’s second-largest industry behind tourism” – a claim often made in articles covering Florida’s business sectors.

But even tourism isn’t Florida’s top industry.

According to Howard, tourism is tough to track. In the NAICS, the closest category to “Tourism” is “Accommodation and Food Services,” but it tracks only what it can see. A restaurant meal, for example, can be considered a tourism expense even if the restaurant is two blocks from your home. Still, even if these numbers include travel, gas and other miscellaneous expenses, tourism still wouldn’t be No. 1.

“The slam-dunk leading economic category in Florida is – no surprise, really – real estate,” Howard writes. “Alone, real estate sales, rentals and leasing account for around $173 billion – more than 16% of the state’s economy. And that doesn’t include the dollars from the related category of ‘Construction’ – another $55 billion.

While the citrus industry oversees 20% of the state’s land mass – pending more housing developments – the state’s agricultural industry accounts for less than 2% of the state’s trillion-dollar economy, Howard said.

Top 5 Florida sectors based on NAICS data

  1. Real estate
  2. Government
  3. Healthcare
  4. Professional, scientific and technical services
  5. Retail trade

Top 5 employer sectors in Florida

  1. Healthcare
  2. Retail trade
  3. Government
  4. Accommodation and food services
  5. Administrative services (office and clerical personnel

Source: Florida Trend magazine, February 2020, Mark R. Howard

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