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High Demand Occupations in Florida's Eight Westernmost Counties

This report prepared by the UWF Haas Center provides insights on projected growth in the labor force between 2021 and 2026. The regional performance of twenty-two occupational areas were examined and compared with the state and the nation.

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Occupation Ranks

This report ranks each occupation by median earnings and growth rates spanning five years. In order to identify which occupational areas support the greatest economic opportunity, we first sorted by median earnings and then by the projected occupational growth between 2021 and 2026. Unsurprisingly, the top 10 occupational areas share several common attributes.


First, each occupational area pays a wage greater than the median annual earnings of the defined geography. Second, each occupational area requires at least some education beyond high school. Lastly, while the exact rankings, earnings, and growth rate may vary between geographies, the set of top 10 occupational areas are consistent at the regional, state, and national levels.

Automation Index

The automation index was another measurement focused on in the report. As labor in any occupation becomes more difficult to source due to wage increases and/or hazardous conditions, automation becomes more likely. The automation index measures the threat for mechanization. 


One noteworthy finding was the accelerated innovation found in hospitality and food service. Working conditions invovling direct contact with customers combined with a low pay rate made this occupation poised for innovation following the COVID-19 Pandemic. Restaurant owners now place menus online. Patrons may scan a QR code and review the restaurant’s offerings. Some companies are taking this a step further; face to face customers may place their order online, pay online, and the request goes directly to the kitchen.

Top Occupational Growth by County

The map below is an overview of Gulf Power’s regional service territory. We have identified high wage occupations with the fastest growth rate, and this represents the projected growth rate of the top occupation in each county. 


Our region saw 16,236 total job postings for Architecture & Engineering occupations from July 2020 to June 2021, of which 3,693 were unique. These numbers give us a “Posting Intensity” of 4-to-1, for every four postings there is one unique job posting. In an average month, there were 717 active job postings for Architecture & Engineering occupations, and 292 hired. This means there was approximately one hire for every two unique job postings for positions related to Architecture & Engineering.

The report found that leaders may opt to incentivize career transitions from lower wage occupations to higher wage occupations in high growth areas. 

This will increase prosperity among workers and families who will spend more in the economy. UWF and other FL SUS post-secondary education institutions have made strategic decisions to serve both first time in college students, as well as those individuals who are currently working in an occupation that pays less than median wages and seek to upskill to a career with higher-than-median wages.

By investing in the wellbeing of its workforce, local leaders are investing in the wellbeing of the area. Ensuring workers have affordable educational opportunities to enter, and transition into, the top occupational areas will allow for a more dynamic economy and region.

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