Florida’s population, which has been rising year after year since the end of World War II, fell for the first time this year, according to the demographers at the University of Florida.
The population dropped by 58,294 from April 1, 2008 to April 1, 2009, according to UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research, which measures population using household electricity connections and disconnections and housing permit data. That might not seem like much for a state with a population of about 18 million. But it’s the first drop since 1946 and it follows a population boom. By comparison, the state’s population increased by 430,905 from 2005 to 2006 (By 2007-2008, the population rose by just 126,852).
Florida’s speculative building boom was driven by the idea the retiring baby boomers and new immigrants would create steady demand for the condos towers rising from Miami to Jacksonville. But many of the immigrants who helped build homes during the boom have likely left as the state’s economic promise diminished, said David Denslow Jr., a professor and Research Economist for the Bureau of Economic and Business Research.
And seniors, who have lost money in the stock market and have been unable to unload primary homes up north, have delayed purchasing their Florida retirement pads, he said. It’s also likely that many people cashed out before the end of the boom and moved to less expensive states such as North Carolina, South Carolina or Georgia, he said.
But Denslow is hopeful that the population will start growing again once the economy improves. The snowbirds are slowly coming back, said Denslow, who estimates that 3.5 million Americans will retire by 2020 (compared to about 2 million in 2000).
“We’re bottoming out,” he said. “The stock market is coming back. And to some extent, people are able to sell up north. There are some indications that the market is coming back. But I don’t see house prices rebounding sharply.”