Florida features 4 out of top 5 fastest growing metro areas in U.S.
The Wildwood-Villages area of Florida was the fastest growing metro area in the U.S. in the past year. Image via AP.

The Villages
All of the top 10 fastest growing metro areas were in Southern states.

It’s no secret that Florida is one of the fastest growing states in the U.S. But a U.S. Census Bureau analysis recently released shows that out of the top 5 fastest growing metro areas in the country, four are in the Sunshine State.

The Wildwood-Villages area, which nearly splits the distance between Ocala and Orlando, is the nation’s fastest growing metro area, according to the Census report. The population of that area now stands at about 151,000 people.

Census officials say The Wildwood-Villages area grew by 4.7% between 2022 and 2023. From 2021 to 2022, that metro area saw 7% growth, which was also tops in the nation for the period.

The Lakeland-Winter Haven area came in a close second in the country from 2022-2023, maintaining a population of about 818,000 while posting a 3.8% growth rate in the past year.

The Myrtle Beach area of South Carolina came in third. But Florida metro areas filled out the top 5 fastest growing metro areas, with Ocala and Port St. Lucie coming in fourth and fifth, with 3.4% and 3.1% increases in population, respectively.

Every other metro area listed in the top 10 of most rapidly growing areas was from a Southern state.

“The population growth in Florida’s metro areas underscores a larger trend of widespread population growth across the South, the nation’s fastest-growing region and site of all of the top 10 fastest-growing U.S. metro areas from 2022 to 2023,” the Census report concluded. “The growth continued a pattern already clear the previous year when eight of the 10 fastest-growing metro areas were in the South.”

While the biggest percentage of growth rates were in up-and-coming areas of Florida, Census officials noted some of the state’s more traditional urban centers added substantial upticks in raw population numbers.

“Three metro areas collectively added nearly 150,000 residents from 2022 to 2023: Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford (54,916); Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater (51,622); and Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach (43,387) — the fourth, fifth and 10th largest numeric gaining metro areas nationwide, respectively,” Census officials said.

Those big increases in the Florida metro areas also helped propel the Sunshine State into a distinction that hasn’t been seen since 1957: Florida was the fastest growing state in the U.S. That data was released by the Census Bureau in 2022 and showed Florida had an estimated population of about 22.245 million people.

At that time, Florida had an estimated 1.9% population increase between 2021 and 2022. Florida was listed as the nation’s third most populous state.

Drew Dixon

Drew Dixon is a journalist of 40 years who has reported in print and broadcast throughout Florida, starting in Ohio in the 1980s. He is also an adjunct professor of philosophy and ethics at three colleges, Jacksonville University, University of North Florida and Florida State College at Jacksonville. You can reach him at [email protected].

One comment

  • PeterH

    April 2, 2024 at 10:52 am

    More and more Americans are retiring and searching for an affordable place to live in a warmer climate.

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