News Column

Florida's Population Growing Again, but Slowly

Aug. 6, 2013

Preliminary figures released Monday show Florida's population is on a slow-growth trajectory that is gradually gaining steam as the state's economy improves.

Florida added an estimated 184,000 residents in the past year, for a 1 percent increase, according to University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research. The modest increase seems to mirror the state's slow recovery from the Great Recession, said Scott Cody, a UF demographer.

"As the economy has picked up, so has the growth of Florida," Cody said.

About 70 percent of that population growth is from more people moving into Florida from other states and abroad than moving out. But that net migration -- the engine for Florida's growth during the past 50 years -- is still low compared with the boom years, when as much as 90 percent of the state's population increase was caused by migration, Cody said.

University of Central Florida economist Sean Snaith said the state's job growth is not yet the magnet it once was in luring workers to the Sunshine State.

"I'm not sure our labor market has improved enough to be a beacon to other people that this is the place to find a job," Snaith said.

Florida's growth stalled as the national recession decimated 401(k) retirement accounts and the housing slump prevented many Americans from selling their homes. High unemployment also forced thousands to leave Florida for jobs in other states.

Between 2000 and 2003, before the recession, the state's population grew by 6.2 percent. During the recession, 2007-2010, the growth slowed to 1.9 percent. From 2010 to 2013, the number of residents grew 2.4 percent.

But the rebound of the stock market and the recovery of the housing market in other states have boosted household wealth and given retirees the ability to buy that Florida retirement home, Snaith said.

"If the housing market continues its recovery, that will help retirees to sell their homes up North," Snaith said.

But the uptick in growth is still lagging compared with previous decades. At the current rate, Florida is projected to gain 1.8 million residents between 2010 and 2020. Before the recession, Florida was growing by about 3 million residents every 10 years.

Florida is unlikely to see a return to those kinds of growth numbers anytime soon, Snaith said, but the economic indicators are all pointing in the right direction for steady growth.

"While we might not get back to where we were," he said, "any improvement in the housing market will help the economy grow faster."



Source: (c)2013 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.


Story Tools