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Tampa Bay area's population projected to grow to 3.1 million this year

TAMPA — The Tampa Bay area's population, already the largest of any metropolitan area in the state, is projected to grow from 3 million last year to 3.1 million this year, and to 3.3 million over the next five years.

That growth is expected to bring corresponding increases in two areas of the local economy, according to a new forecast from market researchers at the real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield.

The average home value is expected to reach $224,760 this year, compared with the state average of $267,510. Analysts are looking for the bay area's retail sales to grow from $64.6 billion last year to $68.3 billion this year.

Statewide, Florida's population grew by 430,000 new residents to nearly 20.5 million in 2017, boosted by migration from out of state. It is projected to grow another 450,000 this year and is expected to reach 23.3 million over the next five years.

Last year's growth includes an influx of thousands of residents forced out of Puerto Rico by widespread destruction from Hurricane Maria. Whether most of them stay will depend on reconstruction efforts and the pace of economic recovery in Puerto Rico, analysts say.

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Overall, however, migration into Florida is expected to continue to support new construction and development.

"These new residents will also alleviate some of the pressure on already tight labor markets," Cushman & Wakefield Florida market leader Larry Richey said in an announcement of the 2018 projections.

Here are the firm's population projections for nine Florida metro areas, starting with those forecast to have the highest growth:

• Fort Myers: 3.6 percent increase, from a population of 748,000 last year to a projected population of 775,200 this year, driven by demographic trends and lower costs compared to South Florida.

• Orlando: 3.2 percent increase, from 2.4 million to 2.52 million year over year. Orlando's 3.3 percent unemployment rate is the lowest in the state. It adds 1,000 new jobs a week.

• Palm Beach: 2.8 percent increase, from 1.4 million to 1.52 million.

• Indian River: 2.7 percent increase, from 148,000 to 159,700.

• Lakeland: 2 percent, from 677,270 to 689,600. Its average home values of $194,910 are the lowest of Florida's metro areas.

• Jacksonville: 1.9 percent increase, from 1.5 million to 1.6 million. Analysts expect Jacksonville to grow more than the state and nation over the next several years thanks to new tourists, military spending and infrastructure.

• Broward County: 1.8 percent increase, from 1.89 million to 1.98 million.

• Tampa Bay area: 1.8 percent, from 3 million to 3.14 million. It is the 18th largest metro area in the country.

• Miami: 1.4 percent increase, from 2.7 million to nearly 2.8 million. Its $345,130 average home value is the highest in the state.

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Contact Richard Danielson at or (813) 226-3403. Follow @Danielson_Times