Strong Economy Continues To Spur Florida's Growth, Estimates Show

August 19, 1999

GAINESVILLE — Plenty of jobs and a booming economy made Florida’s population growth the largest of the 1990s during the year that ended April 1, according to the latest preliminary estimates from the University of Florida.

The Sunshine State’s population stands at 15,307,457, according to the figures compiled by UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research. That’s a 2 percent increase from the 1998 estimate of 15,000,475. The 1990 U.S. Census showed the state’s population at 12,938,071.

“During the 1990s, Florida has been topped only by Texas in the number of jobs created,” said Stanley K. Smith, director of the bureau and head of its population program. “Florida’s population growth reflects the strong economic growth that has occurred since the recession in the early 90s.”

Florida’s jobs have tended to be concentrated in the service sector. Growth has been particularly strong in business- and health-related services, as well as tourism-related services such as restaurants, bars and hotels and motels, Smith said.

“Agriculture, construction and manufacturing don’t really contribute that much to job growth,” he said.

Florida’s five largest counties were, in descending order, Miami-Dade (2,117,236); Broward (1,490,009); Palm Beach (1,039,814); Hillsborough (967,461); and Pinellas (898,642).

In the ranking of the five most populous counties, Hillsborough and Pinellas have swapped places since 1990, likely a result of Pinellas beginning to reach its saturation point, Smith said.

“Pinellas is a small and densely populated county. I think the potential for growth in Pinellas is leveling out,” he said.

While Hillsborough has more room than Pinellas for expansion, Smith said, the larger potential for growth in the Tampa Bay area lies in Pasco and Hernando counties to the north. The Suncoast Parkway, which will run from north Tampa to the Hernando-Citrus county line when it opens in 2001, is expected to make those counties even more popular as bedroom communities for Tampa and St. Petersburg.

Bottoming out the list as the state’s five smallest counties were Lafayette (6,961); Liberty (7,866); Glades (9,867); Franklin (10,872); and Gilchrist (13,346).

Although small counties may not attract the jobs that larger counties do, they show the fastest growth rates. During the 1990s, the state’s fastest growing counties — Sumter, Flagler, Osceola, Walton, Wakulla and Collier — grew at an average rate of more than 4 percent, compared with the state’s average growth rate of 1.9 percent.

Sumter County, northwest of Orlando, experienced especially fast growth as a result of the arrival of a large federal prison that houses some 3,400 inmates counted as permanent residents. However, Smith said, inmates weren’t the only factor behind Sumter’s growth. Prison employees, as well as people moving in to take jobs created by the prison’s presence, also figured in.

Fourteen counties grew at paces lower than the state’s during the 90s. The slowest percentage growth rates were in Pinellas, Miami-Dade and Monroe; still, Miami-Dade managed to add more than 180,000 new residents this decade.

The bureau provides April 1 population estimates for Florida and its counties and cities annually. The figures are sent to the cities and counties to review and are made final Nov. 1. The final estimates are used for state revenue-sharing distributions and other budgeting and planning purposes. The estimates are based on changes in electric customer and building permit data since 1990 and refer only to permanent residents.