Florida has passed New York in population to claim the rank of the No. 3 state in the U.S., with almost 20 million residents, the Census Bureau reported Tuesday.
California remains the most populous state, followed by Texas.
Illinois was one of six states that suffered population losses. The losses were small — none lost more than two-tenths of 1 percent — but Illinois was the biggest net loser, with its population dropping by 9,972 people in just a year.
Growing strongly again after the housing market’s collapse and the Great Recession, Florida added about 800 people a day in the past year — many of them New Yorkers, and many of whom, as former seasonal visitors, were affectionately called “snowbirds.” Earlier Census data showed that the Sunshine State is gaining about 25,000 more New Yorkers than it loses to New York each year.
The new state estimates, pegged to July 1, also show that North Carolina surged ahead of Michigan as No. 9 and North Dakota passed Alaska for 47th place.
William Frey, a Brookings Institution demographer, says the new figures show that “the Sun Belt is back, or at least it’s coming back.”
If this year’s increase had happened four years earlier, Frey said, Florida would have stood to gain congressional seats. Now it must wait another six years until reapportionment of the House of Representatives after the 2020 Census.
The shift is startling, considering that in 1950 New York’s population was five times that of Florida. As recently as 1980, New York’s population was 80 percent larger than Florida’s.
The sharp contrast illustrates the impact of the recession on population change patterns, said Kenneth Johnson of the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey School of Public Policy.
“Florida, which had substantial domestic migration gains prior to the recession, actually lost domestic migrants during the worst of the recession,” he said.
By contrast, New York’s migration losses shrank during the recession. Both patterns are starting to revert to pre-recession levels, as New Yorkers leave in larger numbers. Many are bound for Florida, which saw a net gain of migrants of 139,000, up from 96,000 the previous year.
North Dakota grew by more than 2 percent in the past year, faster than any other state, as surging oil and gas production created thousands of jobs. Its crude oil production passed Alaska’s in early 2012, according to the Energy Information Administration.
The figures show that other formerly booming states are beginning to see sunlight as well.
Nevada drew a net 24,000 more people from other states than it lost, double the previous year’s gain and a major swing from a net loss in 2010-11, when its growth-driven economy collapsed in the recession. It has grown by 5.1 percent since 2010, returning to the top 10 states.
Arizona’s migration from other states grew to 42,000 from 25,800 the previous year and just 8,800 in 2010-11.
Texas continued to boom, adding 451,000 residents in a year — more than the number added in 21 states of the Northeast and Midwest combined.
But the effects of the Great Recession continued. The USA grew just 0.75 percent, the slowest rate since 1937, when the Great Depression was worsened by the Dust Bowl.
Last year’s increase was built on the arrival of 1 million immigrants and 1.3 million more births than deaths. The birth rate dropped to a record low last year in the face of continuing high unemployment, slow wage growth and economic uncertainty. Demographers cited sliding birth rates in Mexico, one of the biggest sources of U.S. immigration.
Michigan, dragged down by perennial losses in Detroit, its largest city, grew just 0.1 percent, while North Carolina grew 10 times as fast, gaining 95,000 residents.
Just one state has lost population over the longer stretch since 2010: West Virginia.
Others are flirting with losses. Maine had more deaths than births for the second year in a row and has grown just 0.1 percent since 2010.
PAUL OVERBERG AND GREG TOPPO, Gannett News Service