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COVID-19 Pandemic Could Trim Florida's Population Growth

Downtown Miami skyline at night

First came the damage to Florida’s tourism industry and all sorts of other businesses. And now, the state’s growth engine?

A panel of state economists this month released a report forecasting that Florida’s population growth will slow in the coming years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

That doesn’t mean the U-Hauls will stop trucking down Interstate 75 and Interstate 95: Florida is still expected to see population increases over the next five years that will be like adding a city slightly larger than St. Petersburg each year.

But the report released by a panel known as the Demographic Estimating Conference reduced estimates of population growth, with the population on April 1, 2025 projected to be 200,139 below what had been predicted before the pandemic.

Also, the panel said the pandemic is having other effects, such as increased household sizes as people live together amid the economic storm.

“The world-wide pandemic and its accompanying economic fallout has strongly colored this forecast, producing slower population growth throughout the near-term forecast,” an executive summary of the report said. “Compared to the last conference (meeting of the panel), the population projection for April 1, 2025 was lowered by 200,139. In addition, average household size was increased, reflecting the economic impact the pandemic is expected to have on household dynamics and structure; all else being equal, larger household sizes lead to a lower number of households.”

The report estimated Florida’s population at 21.574 million as of April 1, with growth expected to average 271,330 net new residents a year - or 743 a day - until April 1, 2025. At that point, the population would total 22.93 million.

By comparison, a December forecast from the panel said growth was expected to average 326,103 net new residents a year - or 893 a day - from April 1, 2019, to April 1, 2024. The December report said its projected increases were “analogous to adding a city slightly larger than Orlando every year.”

As another point of comparison, the December forecast estimated that the state’s population on April 1, 2024, would total 22,839,102 people. The new forecast puts it at 22,671,115 - a reduction of 167,987 people.

The new forecast indicates that the slower growth stems, at least in part, from reduced expectations of “net migration,” a measure of people moving in and out of the state.

It projects that Florida will have 21,830,364 people on April 1, 2021; 22,119,075 people on April 1, 2022; 22,400,685 people on April 1, 2023; 22,671,115 people on April 1, 2024; and 22,930,731 people on April 1, 2025.