New index ranks Florida metros by workforce skill level, finds they lag counterparts in other states

By Jeffrey Cassady -

Attracting highly skilled and college-educated workers is essential for Florida to get the most out of the knowledge economy. But towns and cities across the state lag behind metro areas around the country at doing that, according to recent work by the University of West Florida Haas Center, a business and economics think tank affiliated with the Florida SBDC Network.

Haas Center economist Soheil Nadimi looked at occupational wage data for 347 U.S. metro areas (Washington D.C. was excluded). Controlling for regional purchasing power, labor supply and demand shocks and regional amenities, such as government facilities, Nadimi generated an index score for each of Florida’s 22 metro areas and the other national metro areas he looked at.

A high index score could indicate that an area has more skilled workers than average, or that it has workers with better-than-average skills. Conversely, a low index score suggests that skilled labor is valued less in an area and that the region has fewer or less-skilled workers.

Access to a local pool of qualified, capable workers is very important to small businesses, especially those in technology and other sectors that thrive on innovation and new ideas.

Job Skills Index: State and national comparison

Nine Florida metro areas beat the average national index score, which the Haas Center adjusted to zero. Tallahassee led Florida metro areas with a score of 8.6, while the Palm Coast area trailed the rest of the state a score of -9.3. The average index score for metro areas throughout Florida was -1. The complete rankings, with scores, are below.

  1. Tallahassee, 8.6
  2. Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville, 7.9
  3. Gainesville, 4.9
  4. Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, 4.4
  5. Jacksonville, 3.3
  6. West Palm Beach-Boca Raton-Boynton Beach, 2.3
  7. Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach-Deerfield Beach, 2.2
  8. Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall, 1.6
  9. Crestview-Fort Walton Beach-Destin, 1.3

National average, zero

  1. Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, -0.3
  2. Pensacola-Ferry Pass-Brent, -0.9

State average, -1

  1. Lakeland-Winter Haven, -1.5
  2. Bradenton-Sarasota-Venice, -2.6
  3. Cape Coral-Fort Myers, -4.3
  4. Panama City-Lynn Haven-Panama City Beach, -4.4
  5. Port St. Lucie, -4.6
  6. Ocala, -4.7
  7. Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach, -4.9
  8. Naples-Marco Island, -6.4
  9. Sebastian-Vero Beach, -6.5
  10. Punta Gorda, -8.6
  11. Palm Coast, -9.3

Jeffrey Cassady is a writer for the Haas Center and Florida SBDC Network. He covers Florida business and economic issues.