As the epicenter of American tourism, the pandemic’s effects were devastating for Orlando’s economy. Hundreds of thousands of employees working in the tourism industry were left jobless, and although Orlando was one of the fastest-growing metro areas prior to COVID-19, its unemployment rate skyrocketed past the national average. Left uncertain, Realtors are now finding a glimmer of hope in Orlando’s new listings and homes under contract, according to Realtor.com. Laid off and furloughed tourism workers are impacting the housing market in different ways, but the core homebuyers seeking to snag these high-demand Orlando homes are still there.
“The biggest Impact I see when it comes to the tourism and economy is unemployment,” says Joe Johnson, president of the Osceola County Association of Realtors. Employment here “is all driven by tourism, so when the shutdown started happening probably within two weeks or so, all those employees were furloughed. So you've got thousands upon thousands of people losing their jobs instantaneously,” he says.
The loss of jobs portends far-reaching economic impacts on the Orlando area, including the real estate market. Until the coronavirus pandemic, it was one of the fastest-growing metros in the U.S., a southeastern bellwether for housing. Then, as in most parts of the country, home sales fell off a cliff. Now experts are wondering: How quickly will the housing market come back—and what will the new normal look like?
According to Visit Orlando, more than 463,000 area jobs are directly or indirectly related to tourism.
The Orlando Economic Partnership reports, for the week of June 1, the area’s unemployment rate was at 16.2%, which is higher than the national average and tops any numbers seen during the 2008 recession.