SUMTER COUNTY, Fla. - The beautiful weather in Florida seems to be drawing more and more Americans, with the Sunshine State climbing the ranks of most populous states and fastest-growing cities.
New data released from the U.S. Census Bureau showed that The Villages, Florida, ranked as the nation's fastest-growing metro area last year, with the city west of Orlando boasting a 5.4 percent increase in population between July 1, 2013, and July 1, 2014. This comes as Florida became the nation's third most-populous state in December, taking over the spot once held by New York.
The iconic retirement community, the Villages, is becoming the place to be for those no longer bound by an office.
"Down here we just play. Up there, all we do is work," said a resident who moved from Buffalo. "The weather's great. We had eight feet of snow in three days before Thanksgiving in Buffalo. You probably heard of it. Over my head."
But it's not just The Villages, which grew to a population of about 114,000, the Census Bureau said.
"We're from New York, wanted to retire, retire in a warm climate," said Tom Curry.
The growth is driven by increases in the state's metroplexes in areas such as central and southern Florida, Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson said. Six Florida metro areas were among the 20 fastest-growing: The Villages, Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Naples-Immokalee-Marco Island, Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford, North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton and Panama City.
"We think it's a lovely place to live. Small metro area, growing rapidly, but has that hometown feel that doesn't just appeal to seniors," said The Villages resident Joyce Colvin.
Florida has been long known for retirees, beaches and vacationers. The influx of new residents was enough to offset the fact that there were more deaths than births in about half of the state's counties, the Census Bureau said. Florida averaged 803 new residents each day between July 1, 2013, and July 1, 2014, growing by 293,000 to reach 19.9 million during that time period, census data released in December showed.
New York went up by 51,000 to 19.7 million during that same period.
A few more beach towns and cities in the West make up most of the top five fastest-growing cities by percent growth: Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach metroplex in South Carolina and North Carolina at 3.2 percent; the Austin-Round Rock area in Texas at 3 percent; Odessa, Texas, at 2.9 percent; and St. George, Utah, at 2.9 percent.
Texas snagged the top spots in both numerical increase by person for counties and metro areas.
Harris County, Texas, leads the nation in population growth by person, with the county surrounding Houston adding 89,000 people between July 2013 and 2014, followed by Maricopa County, Arizona, with 74,000 and Los Angeles County with 63,000.
The Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land metro area was also the top in metro area numerical increase with 156,371 people added between 2013 and 2014, followed by the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington area with a 131,217-person increase and the New York-Newark-Jersey City-Pennsylvania area with a 90,797-person increase.
By percentage, Williams County, North Dakota, remained the nation's fastest-growing county with a population of more than 10,000 people. It increased by 8.7 percent from 2013 to 2014, followed by Stark County, North Dakota, at 7 percent; Sumter County, Florida, at 5.4 percent; Pickens County, Alabama, at 5.1 percent; and Hays County, Texas, at 4.8 percent.
The Census Bureau also said:
—California was the nation's most populous state in 2014, with 38.8 million residents. Texas came in second at 27 million.
—Los Angeles County had the nation's largest population with more than 10.1 million people.
—New York was the nation's largest metro area, with about 20.1 million people.
—Detroit was still losing people. Wayne County, Michigan, has the nation's largest numerical decline at just less than 11,000. The next closest county? Cuyahoga County, Ohio; the county including Cleveland lost slightly more than 4,000 people.