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ORLANDO-For the first time in decades, Orlando isn’t sitting in the cat bird’s seat during a lethargic national economic scenario. The area’s job picture is hurting and could affect future commercial/residential development growth and leasing activity, suggests a first-of-a-kind survey by a business research division at the University of Central Florida in Orlando.

The area’s growth rate in non-farm jobs in a March 2000 to March 2001 comparison is 2.63% versus a 3.57% expansion in 2000 over 1999. Florida’s aggregate growth rate is 3.49% over the 12-month period. Orlando added 23,700 jobs.

The numbers were crunched by Dr. David F. Scott Jr., executive director, Dr. Phillips Institute for the Study of American Business Activity, and Phillips-Schenck, chairholder at the university.

“Rarely has Orlando’s pace of payroll jobs creation lagged that for all of Florida, but that is now the situation,” Scott tells GlobeSt.com. Scott’s numbers are rarely challenged in Orlando’s business community.

“It is unwise to think that Metro Orlando’s basic economic structure is immune from national economic slowdowns,” the professor says.

He ranks Orlando 24th among 61 metropolitan statistical areas having at least 500,000 payroll jobs. Las Vegas was first in Scott’s top 10 list with a 5.61% growth rate and 41,497 jobs added.

Metro Dallas led the list based on sheer number of payroll jobs added with 79,232. Metro Tampa led Florida’s six largest MSAs by totaling 51,789 new payroll jobs over the March analysis period.

Three Florida metro areas were listed in the first six spots. Scott calls that “a remarkable performance made more remarkable by Orlando’s absence from the top 10.”

Among the 15 largest states, Florida ranked first with its 3.49% growth rate. But based on the absolute number of payroll jobs added, Florida (244,500) trailed California (438,600) and Texas (258,000).

Orlando’s current performance is far behind its 1998 volume, the study notes. Non-farm jobs in that year leaped by 5.42% over 1997.

Scott’s Hot Top Ten list shows Las Vegas No.1 with a payroll job growth rate of 5.61% and new jobs of 41,497. Behind Vegas are Sacramento, CA, 4.42% (31,002); Tampa-St. Petersburg, 4.36% (51,789); Jacksonville, FL, 4.35% (24,081); Dallas, 4.03% (79,232); West Palm Beach-Boca Raton, FL, 4.03% (19,542); Riverside-San Bernardino, CA, 4% (39,112); Austin-San Marcos, TX, 4% (26,526); Denver, 3.94% (46,068); and San Francisco, 3.87% (41,548).

Florida led the largest 15 states with a growth rate of 3.40% and new jobs of 244,500. Next in line are California, 3.05% (438,600); Texas, 2.75% (258,000); Massachusetts, 2.07% (68,200); Virginia, 1.94% (67,900); Georgia, 1.68% (66,900); Washington, 1.55% (41,900); New York, 1.53% (131,200); New Jersey, 1.37% (54,500); North Carolina, 1.26% (49,600); Pennsylvania, 1.19% (67,400); Illinois, 0.83% (50,100); Michigan, 0.68% (31,800); Ohio, 0.42% (23,700); and Indiana, negative 0.4% (12,000).

Scott’s raw data comes from the US Department of Labor. His web site is www.bus.ucf.edu/dpi.

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