National report ranks Florida 1st in skilled workforce attraction; Leon County among fastest rising

by | Dec 14, 2023

  • Florida maintains the top spot in Lightcast’s 2023 Talent Attraction Scorecard for attracting a skilled workforce, with California and New York ranking at the bottom.
  • The state’s success attributed to investments in workforce education and training, leading to significant growth in skilled job sectors.
  • The report highlights Florida’s strong performance in several key metrics, including migration and job growth, positioning it ahead of other Southeastern states and nationwide.

(The Center Square) – Florida was ranked the top state for attracting a skilled workforce for the second consecutive year. California and New York ranked 49th and 50th, respectively.

According to Lightcast’s 2023 Talent Attraction Scorecard, Florida again ranked the top state in the country for attracting and developing a talented workforce.

“Florida’s record investments in workforce education, including expanding apprenticeship and on the job training programs in high demand professions, have elevated business and industry through strong workforce development,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said, adding that it was “no surprise” that Florida won the distinction two years in a row.

States and counties were ranked according to several metrics to determine a “talent attraction landscape across the US,” including education attainment, job growth, skilled job growth, job openings, competitive effect, and migration, according to the report.

“Attracting and retaining talent is essential to further economic growth within states and communities,” Dr. Christopher Laney, Lightcast Director of Government Affairs & Workforce Strategy, said. Lightcast, a global leader in labor market analytics, provides data, software, and consulting services to a range of industries.

The Scorecard evaluated IRS migration data for all large and small counties in the U.S. with populations over 100,000 and between 5,000 and 100,000, respectively. The IRS migration data shows year-to-year address changes reported on tax returns, which Lightcast evaluated to determine which communities gained new residents.

Nationally, the report found that Sunbelt and popular remote work destinations tended “to do well in talent attraction,” with Florida ranking first and Texas ranking second overall.

Florida ranked in the top five in multiple categories including, second second-best state for migration; second-best for competitive effect; fourth-best for skilled job growth and fifth-best for overall job growth.

“Migration is a key indicator of talent attraction, and the Southeast was buoyed by its strong performance in that category,” the report states. “Five of the top 10 states for migration are Southeastern: Florida, North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina, and Georgia.

“The Southeast’s high rankings were also driven by new employment opportunities, with four states in the top 10 for job growth. Overall, the Southeast placed three states in the top 10 and seven in the top 15, with Florida setting the standard at No. 1 overall.”

Florida also ranked 14th for education attainment, “which is a significant leap forward for Florida since the beginning of this administration,” the governor’s office said. DeSantis has focused on aligning workforce education programs with employers’ needs by making strategic investments in building a skilled workforce, his office said.

Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz, Jr. also said the rankings reflected Florida’s “strategic approach towards workforce education and talent retention is working.”

Florida also leads the U.S. in new business formations, with 2.7 million new businesses formed since 2019. Florida was also ranked this year as the nationwide model for educational freedom and choice with more choice programs introduced and correlating to improved educational outcomes.

In DeSantis’ Focus on Florida’s Future Budget proposal, he recommended more than $853 million for workforce education programs and $125 million for the Job Growth Grant Fund and the Rural Infrastructure Fund.

Of the top ten largest counties in the country, three are in Florida: Hillsborough County, home to Tampa, ranked 7th, followed by Fort Myers’ Lee County (8th) and Lakeland’s Polk County (9th).

By metrics, Hillsborough County ranked fourth for competitive effect, 33rd for migration and 34th for skilled job growth. Lee County ranked first for migration and 33rd for competitive effect. Polk County ranked fourth for migration, 21st for job growth and 35th for competitive effect.

Arizona’s Maricopa County ranked first in the nation; six Texas counties dominated the top ten largest counties.

By comparison, California ranked 49th and New York ranked 50th, according to the report.

California also ranked 50th for migration and 50th for education attainment. New York ranked 50th for competitive effect, 49th for migration, and 46th for job growth.


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