Florida growth outpaces national trend
Most of Florida's largest counties and cities grew more rapidly than the nation since 2000, according to 2010 Census data released Thursday.
"It's a story of two different half-decades," says Stanley Smith, director of the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Florida. "The first half was so great that it made up for any decline of the past few years."
Despite record foreclosures and high unemployment, Florida still grew 17.6% to 18.8 million, well above the 9.7% national rate.
It's a testament to the runaway growth the state enjoyed in the early 2000s, which slowed in 2007 and came to a screeching halt in 2008. Annual growth that had peaked at 2.3% in 2005 fell to 0.5% in 2009 and 0.7% in 2010.
Flagler County, north of Daytona Beach, was the fastest-growing county, up 92% to 95,696. Sumter County, home of The Villages retirement community in central Florida, grew 75% to 93,420, and Osceola County, just south of Orlando, grew 56% to 268,685.
Even larger and more densely developed areas gained: Miami-Dade, the largest county, up 11% to 2.5 million; Jacksonville, the largest city, up almost 12% to 821,784.
St. Petersburg and its county, Pinellas, were among the rare decliners. The state's fourth-largest city lost 1.4% of its population since 2000, down to 245,000. Pinellas fell 0.5% to 916,542.