Florida is the second most visited state in the U.S., relying on tourism to drive its economy more than any other state. The Sunshine State also relies heavily on international trade, agriculture, aerospace and aviation, and the life sciences. As of 2020, Florida had the fourth-largest economy in the United States behind California, Texas, and New York with a gross domestic product (GDP) of $1.1 trillion and a $101.5 billion budget for 2021-2022.

Key Takeaways

  • As of 2020, Florida had the fourth-largest economy in the United States behind California, Texas, and New York.
  • Florida's GDP in 2020 was $1.1 trillion and the state employed approximately 8.7 million people in 2021.
  • The biggest contributors to GDP include tourism, agriculture, international trade, aerospace and aviation, life sciences, and the financial services sector.

1. Tourism

Florida saw 79.75 million visitors in 2020, a drop of 39.3% from 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has hit Florida's tourism sector hard but there was an improvement in the first three months of 2021, however, still lower than the first three months of 2020.

As of August 2021, the Department of Economic Opportunity estimated that of the 8.7 million people employed in Florida, 1.1 million have jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector, which is the largest workforce in central Florida. Employment in the leisure and hospitality sector experienced the biggest hit in job losses as a result of the pandemic. For example, Orlando, home to Disney World and Universal Orlando, witnessed a loss of 97,400 jobs from March 2020 to March 2021.

Though tourism is still struggling from the Coronavirus pandemic, it is still a large contributor to GDP. The arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services sector brought in $42 billion in GDP in 2020. Florida is well-known for its miles of sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters. Visitors from around the nation and world are drawn to the state’s 2,200 miles of shoreline and 663 miles of beaches. Over 25% of all visitors reported beach and waterfront activities as their top activities when visiting Florida.

California is the most visited state in the U.S. white Alaska is the least visited.

Florida is also home to eight of the top 20 amusement parks in North America and three out of the top 20 water parks in the world. Florida welcomes millions of families each year to its amusement and theme parks. Though still bringing in tourism, Orlando witnessed half the visitors in 2020 than it did in 2019 due to the pandemic.

Florida's tourism is waiting to bounce back from the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic, but with the virus still hurting Florida, it is difficult to know how soon this will be.

2. Agriculture

Florida’s famed agriculture industry contributed more than $8.8 billion to the state’s economy in 2020. Florida’s warm climate offers farmers a growing season from 100 to 200 days longer than other regions of the country. The high annual average precipitation also increases yield production by creating ideal growing conditions.

Among the top agricultural commodities in 2019 (latest data) were citrus products, other fruits and nuts, vegetables and melons, field crops, milk, and cattle. Florida produces 70% of the annual U.S. production of citrus, and 87% of commercial orange production in the state is mostly used for producing 90% of the nation's orange juice supply.

Florida has the 15th highest number of farms of all of the states in the union.

3. International Trade

Florida is one of the largest export states in the United States and is a major gateway for merchandise trade between North America, Latin America, the Caribbean, and other world regions. In 2020, approximately 33% of all U.S. exports to Latin America and the Caribbean came from Florida. Latin America and the Caribbean accounted for 54.4% of Florida's total merchandise trade in 2020.

Given the convenient geographic layout of the state, most companies are a short drive to one of four major cargo gateway ports located in Florida. This access gives even small companies opportunities to export products overseas.

In 2020, Florida's total merchandise trade was $135 billion. It was America’s sixth-largest exporter after Texas, California, New York, Louisiana, and Illinois, with exports of $45.7 billion. Florida’s exports represented just over 5.5% of the United States exported products for 2020.

Florida’s leading exports include civilian engine aircrafts and parts, telecommunications equipment, computers and components, passenger motor cars and vehicles, blood, antisera, and vaccines.

4. Aerospace and Aviation

The annual economic impact of aviation-related activities in Florida was estimated at $175 billion in 2017 (latest information). As of 2018 (latest information), 2,326 aerospace and aviation companies were located in Florida, employing more than 106,499 workers making an average salary of $79,206.

Many of these companies are located in northwest Florida, which has become a hotbed of aviation and aerospace activity, including research and development, testing, and education. Florida is home to 21 major military bases and more than 60,000 active duty military, and a significant number of veterans, rocket scientists, machinists, pilots, and engineers. Florida aerospace and aviation companies have a vast pool of qualified talent.

No other state rivals Florida’s history in the aerospace industry, and it is uniquely positioned to continue to be a leader in the field for some time. It is home to two of the 10 active spaceports in the United States: Cape Canaveral Spaceport and the Cecil Field Spaceport. Six of the 23 licenses permitting private firms to send rockets into space are authorized from sites in Florida, further cementing its place as a leader in aerospace travel.

5. Life Sciences

Florida has firmly established itself as a hub for the life sciences, with 6,700 establishments located throughout the state directly supporting 94,000 jobs. As of 2021, Florida’s biotech average salary is $74,500.

Florida is home to world-renowned biomedical research institutes, pharmaceutical and medical device companies, and more than 46,000 healthcare establishments. Over 200 pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing companies specializing in the development and manufacturing of new treatments, generics, nutraceuticals, and over-the-counter drugs are based in the state. Florida is also ranked second among states for FDA-registered medical device manufacturing facilities.

6. Financial Services

While not many top banks are based in the state, most of the nation’s largest financial companies have extensive operations in Florida. The industry has 138,739 firms employing 952,863 Floridians. The companies have been attracted to Florida due to its business-friendly legislation, favorable tax climate, and large market. Finance, insurance, real estate, rental, and leasing contributed $214 billion to Florida's GDP in 2020.

Which State Has the Highest GDP?

The state with the highest gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020 was California with a GDP of $3.1 trillion. The top five are rounded out by Texas, New York, Florida, and Illinois.

What Was Florida's GDP in 2020?

Florida's GDP in 2020 was $1.1 trillion. Real gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated to be $935 billion, a decrease from $963 billion in 2019 as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic.

What Is the Poorest State in America?

The poorest state in America in 2021 is Mississippi. It has a poverty rate of 19.6% and a real GDP of 99.7 billion dollars.