Census: Florida population stalls in recession
Wake up and good morning. The story of the day -- at least for Florida and its heroin-like addiction of growing its population -- is about migration. Or the current lack of it. Migration around the country slowed to a snail's pace last year, especially for this decade's boom towns, as a weak housing market and job insecurity forced many Americans to stay put. Pummeled by the real estate market crash and the national recession, Florida's growth fizzled to less than 1 percent last year, according to new U.S. census data.
Demographers say the dropoff in migration is perhaps the most severe since the Great Depression and marks the end of what Brookings Institution demographer Bill Frey calls a "migration bubble."
Florida’s annual "in migration" plunged to 35,000 in the past year, in comparison to an average 230,000 per year for the previous three years. The state as a whole had a mere 0.7 percent increase in population that year, and 12 of Florida's 67 counties lost population between 2007 and 2008.
Pinellas County was one of those 12 Florida counties estimated to have lost population from 2007 to 2008. The others are Charlotte, DeSoto, Escambia, Franklin, Gulf, Madison, Martin, Monroe, Okaloosa, Putnam and Volusia.
Nowhere in the state felt as big a blow from the slowdown as Charlotte County, where the population dropped by 2,400 residents -- or 16 people for every 1,000, Florida's largest per capita decline.
The state's stunning slowdown should get alarm bells clanging statewide as economic development officials and politicians wrangle over new ways structure the Florida economy and its tax base that is not so dependent on the old cliche of "1,000 new people moving into Florida every day." Get over it!
Frey (in photo) has done his own analysis of the new data and the results are especially striking for Tampa Bay and Florida. People are "hanging tight, too scared to do anything," he told the Wall Street Journal. Among his findings:
* Among the 25 large counties which grew most rapidly since 2000, 23 showed lower growth rates last year than the prior year. Seven of those 25 counties are in Florida and include Pasco, Lee and Collier counties.
* Among the 25 large counties whose population gains fell the most, seven were in Florida. And Hillsborough County ranked No. 5, meaning it still grew from 2006 to 2007 by 12,845. But that figure was down by 14,624 from the 27,469 population gain from 2005 to 2006.
* While the slowdown in population gains were most pronounced in counties located in hot markets like Tampa and Orlando, they were pervasive in almost all parts of the state.
* Like Pinellas County, metro Fort Lauderdale’s Broward County registered an actual decline (down 13,154) in its population for the first time in history and Miami’s growth was reduced to half of the previous year.
We're just scratching the surface on this census analysis. Some folks may cheer the slowdown in Florida's boom mentality. Others, geared to make money off new people, will despair. We've got our work cut out for us here in Florida figuring out a better way to prosper in slower growth times.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist