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Orlando’s job market sees high growth, low pay

April 22, 1997

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) _ In this tourism-rich city where jobs are being added at twice the national average, job seekers like Gus Georgiou are frustrated.

He applied at Sea World after no luck finding work as an industrial designer. ``If you want to make some real money, Orlando isn’t the place,″ said Georgiou, 21, of Kissimmee.

While 110,000 new jobs are expected by the end of 2000, many of them are low-wage or part-time jobs in the entertainment and tourism industries.

``To live here, you have to have two jobs. Or if you’re married, your wife has to have a job,″ said Robert Alvarez, a 38-year-old airport shuttle driver who makes $7 an hour.

David F. Scott, finance professor at the University of Central Florida, said the amusement sector is the bedrock of the economy, but diversity is needed.

``We need an automobile assembly plant more than we need one more water slide park,″ he said.

Orlando is working toward that goal. Several high-tech companies including AT&T, Oracle, and Cirent Semiconductor have relocated or expanded recently, adding about 7,500 highly skilled jobs.

But tourism will account for more than a third of future job growth.

Universal Studios is building a 90-acre theme park, Islands of Adventure, and four hotels with a combined 4,300 rooms scheduled to open in 1999. The theme park will hire 13,000 more workers. Walt Disney World is building a fourth theme park, the 500-acre Animal Kingdom, that will require 5,000 new workers.

``We have a major shortage,″ said Cheryl Taubensee, executive director of Central Florida Hotel and Motel Association. ``We need cleaning ladies, we need cooks, we need accountants and we need managers.″

The region’s population has nearly doubled since 1980 to 1.4 million people, yet the unemployment rate is so low that the hospitality industry is checking welfare rolls for workers.

Rita Gander, 21, returning to work to support her two children, applied to be a food server and cashier at Universal.

``There are jobs out there for people who want to work,″ she said.

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