Tropico 5 Economy: A helpful illustrated guide

Tropico 5 is a great game, a title where you get to be a dictator of your own small tropical country, but sometimes you don’t want only to be a cruel ruler. Sometimes you want to be a good president, a state head that provides both wealth and happiness to your citizens. Now for that you need a good economy, which often tanks for new players. I’ll guide you on how to make money in Tropico 5 in an easy and illustrated, yet complete way.


Tropico 5 economy


Tropico 5 Economy quick trick (TLDR)

The most important part of the economy in tropico 5 is the employed/unemployed ratio statistics that you find in your people’s window. There you can find three key numbers: Employed, unemployed and available jobs. Evidently employed must be high and unemployed low, but not so obvious is that the ‘available jobs’ number must be low, hopefully less than 50. This is the TLDR to get your economy going, now in the rest of this guide I’ll explain to you how to manage these numbers in depth and through the eras.


First you need to click your people’s tab:



Then you will get this:

This is a Colonial era screenshot of my Population info, you can see how almost all of my citizens are employed, while the Unemployed number amounts to 11, the Open Jobs number is 0. This means I have 11 citizens available for a new building, Ideally you would have 0 Unemployed, but I left them this way to complete missions.


Now this seems too easy, nevertheless you can't just blindly build new buildings to employ your citizens. Also when you advance through the eras you get new challenges that prevent you from keeping these numbers healthy -and therefore the happiness numbers too -.


How to manage Tropico’s employment/unemployment ratio

You can see in the image above I have 11 Citizens unemployed, let’s check (by clicking the Unemployed number in the Population window) why they are not working:


I need three buildings to fill this unemployment gap: 

  • The first two buildings are for at least 4 illiterates and 4 Grade Schoolers, both types are one star education level, so 2 ranches (they require 4 one star education level citizens each) will do:


  • The third building is for 3 high school level citizens, so a creamery with 4 two stars education level citizens will do and you’ll have one job available to spare: 


Imagine you had 4 College level citizens unemployed. This would get us to build a newspaper that requires 4 three stars education level citizens:


Of course you can opt for different buildings depending on your happiness and quest needs.


Why is the Open Jobs number important?

Because if you have too many jobs available citizens won’t work or will require that the buildings have high budgets to pay them high amounts of money, which in turn, is not profitable and will make your economy collapse. To keep this number low your island’s population needs to grow faster than the speed that you build stuff.

10 other tips to grow your Economy in Tropico 5 

  • Focus on entertainment: Entertainment buildings provide huge profits, do not pollute or run out of resources and are good for both your population’s happiness and tourism, you should try to keep entertainment happiness always high. Next to it’s counter you can see how much money you got from it and realize how impactful it is.


  • Build Teamster offices and roads: Goods need to be moved, it is as simple as that, if you don’t have Teamster offices near everything and good roads then Tropico’s economy and happiness will suffer.


  • Hire managers: Managers are very important, I know it can get boring to pause the game too often and assign all the managers to the buildings, but it is a necessary task.


  • Keep happiness high: Unhappy workers riot and you don’t want riots as people don’t work while they are rioting and that does not give profits.


  • Trade but don’t go crazy: Of course trade is important and you have to make sure of always having all the ships busy, but don’t go out of your way to produce what is being asked in trading, remember that entertainment is more important than industry.


  • Produce high value products: High value products like cars or electronics, which give you huge profits whether you are trading them or not, if the trade is available and you are already producing the good, go for it.


  • Do not accept all the missions: This is a common mistake among new players. When you receive a quest you must check and consider the reward, for example, if I receive the “pay $10,000 for communist revolution, with reward: get +10 communist support” and I already have 100 communist support, then the quest isn’t worth it because you already have this faction's full support.


  • Have good transport: Build Parking lots and roads, sometimes tropicans won’t get a job simply because it is too far away.


  • Build lots of farms and ranches at the beginning: Farm and ranch products generate profits and also increase your citizen’s Food happiness.


  • Let your population grow: Be patient, do not build before you have enough unemployed citizens ready to work.

Economy through the eras

Different times make for different needs, I’ll guide you on what you should build through the different eras of the game.


Colonial Era:

farms and ranches

Colonial era economy needs lots of farms and ranches for food, taverns for entertainment, docks for trading and the buildings you need to complete the quests given to you. The main source of population growth in this era is inmigration, prefer educated revolutionary people as they will get you closer to the next era, employ them in Opera, Newspaper and Library buildings.


Colonial Era eddicts for economy:

  • Census: It costs $10,000 and requires having 'Red Tape' reasearched. Performs an official count of people in the nation, helping to discover those with special manager skills. I know $10,000 can be a bit much, the idea is to proclaim Census when you already have a foot in the next era. Managers are worth it.
  • Urban Development: This is very important through the entire game. Before building tons of residential buildings you must proclaim this eddict, it will save you half the money. Costs $7,000 but pays itself after you build some houses in the next two years.


World Wars Era:

The first thing to do now is build a Rum Distillery and Cigar Factory next to Sugar and Tobacco plantations respectively, these buildings are operated by high school educated workers, so building a High school is important.


Jewelry workshops are the best source of income in this era, they have the highest profit per worker and require them to be college educated. Jewelry workshops are great, although it is not recommended building more than two of them because Gold mines will deplete eventually and you’ll have to rely on Gold imports to get the Jewelry workshops going, entertainment is much more stable.


Remember to have college educated citizens ready to work in your Jewelry Workshop before building it! Building a University might be a good idea.


World wars era economy needs more entertainment buildings, don’t get too distracted with mining and manufacturing, sure you have to do some of the ones I mentioned, but industrial buildings must be a niche, entertainment is way more stable and profitable once your basic economy (plantations, ranches and basic factories) is setted up, so entertainment must be your whole island.

Notice the $286,516 profits from entertainment and it’s only barely above 50 happiness. Notice the food variety is 6 from plantations and ranches.


World Wars Era eddicts for economy:

  • Sovereign Debt: Tropico gets $10,000 issuing bonds, you have to pay them later with extra interest, but who care about later when El Presidente is panicking.
  • Agricultural Subsidies: Subsidizes the islands agricultural industries, increasing effectiveness of all plantations and hydroponic farms by 50 but upsetting the capitalists, costs $0 initially but has a monthly unkeep. This monthly cost is far less than profit you get from this, so just proclaim it, capitalists will be ok.
  • Industrialization: Pretty much the same as Urban development, but with industrial buildings. Costs $10,000 but pays itself after you build some industrial buildings in the next two years.


Cold War Era

Building Vehicle Factories here is great, although keep in mind mining deposits get depleted, so don’t hesitate to accept mining import trades of the resources you need to build cars, also be aware that you need a Steel Mill building first producing steel for you Vehicle Factory.


Vehicle Factories gets event better in the next eras, they get important upgrades like Industrial Robot ($13,000. Reduces the number of workers to 4 and increases efficiency by 30 points) and Agricultural vehicles, which is expensive ($18.000), but it's worth it because increases the efficiency of all plantations on the island.


If you get a trade deal for selling vehicles you will see huge stonks, so check deals constantly.




Entertainment still is and will be key, you should be shooting for over 70 happiness in this department and you will see profits over the 6 digits.


 Do what your difficulty level setting allows you to, entertainment is always good.


Cold War Era eddicts for economy:


  • Geological Survey: Every mine that is not completely depleted will see their materials amount increased. If you have any mine just proclaim this eddict, but preferably proclaim it after building gold mines, as they see benefits of upwards $100,000. This eddict only costs $10,000. Pro tip: Build mines in all the gold deposits in your island and decrease their budget to 0 if you're not going to use them inmediately, then proclaim Geological Survey. 
  • Hydraulic Fracking: Pretty much the same as Geological Survey, but with Oil. Use the tip I gave you if you have the money.


Modern Era

The problem in this era is that you run out of some primary resources (mines and oil), but this is not to panic since you can trade them.


Office buildings are great, they generate a lot of money if you simply place them surrounded by Modern Apartments, although remember not to have two offices together as they can’t benefit from the same building near them.


Stadiums are great too, they provide entertainment, money and jobs.


Modern Era eddicts for economy:



  • Legalize it: Legalizes the sale and use of recreational substances, increases tourism and money in the island, great for the economy, costs $0 and both religious and globalist faction get a bit mad.
  • Commuting program: Encorages commuters to carpool or use mass transportation, reducing the number of people using cars. Do this if you see traffic jams getting bad, it will make your teamsters jobs easier.
  • Host the olimpics: Just do this, this permanently increases the effectiveness of all stadiums and increases the tourism rating based on the number of stadiums in the island. Stadiums give huge profits, the one time $10,000 of this eddict is nothing.
  • Free Wifi: Increases effectiveness of hotels and housing quality. Remember how I tould you entertainment and tourism are important? You will get way more money from this than it's cost ($15,000).



Without a good economy your nation won’t get far because every problem needs at least some money thrown at it. Not enough votes? Pay for smear campaigns and bribes. Not enough health happiness? Pay for hospitals and clinics. Need to survive an invasion? Pay for military buildings.


The best way to get your economy going is managing correctly the three numbers we mentioned: Employment, Unemployment and Available Jobs. There are many ways of manipulating these numbers, and figuring it out is part of the game itself. In this guide I gave you some ideas, but you can go any route that you want and your difficulty level allows.


Hey! You can contact me at or messaing me in reddit to /u/Ded-Smoke. Let me know if you have any suggestions or questions.