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Census estimate: Florida, expected to overtake New York in population, remains No. 4

The U.S. population estimate grew by about 2 million since the 2012 estimate

Recent data show growth patterns normalizing after the financial crisis

CNN  — 

While some experts expected 2013 would be the year that Florida’s population edged out New York’s, the Empire State barely held its spot as the nation’s third most populous, according to data released Monday by the U.S. Census Bureau.

While Florida continues to trail New York slightly, the updated numbers show the population gap closing. The two states are separated by about 100,000 people. Last year, New York had about 250,000 more people than Florida.

New York’s population is 19.65 million, according to the 2013 estimates, and Florida’s is 19.55 million.

“This has been going on for many years, it’s not a recent phenomenon,” said Stan Smith, population program director at the University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research (BEBR). “After many years of higher growth, Florida is now poised to overtake New York within the next couple of years.”

Smith predicted the two states would trade places in the population ranking next year. Andrew Beveridge, a sociology professor at Queens College in New York, had predicted before Monday’s report that the event would likely occur this year.

“It will pass next year, the next time these are done,” Beveridge said Monday. “If it doesn’t pass, it means there will be a change in pattern.”

The U.S. population is a little more than 316 million, up an estimated 2.25 million since 2012, according to the report.

The most recently released census data fall in line with long-term trends, Beveridge said. Southern and Southwestern states continue to gain relative to those in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest regions.

The data also show that growth patterns are returning to normal after the financial crisis, which temporarily slowed growth in Florida and other states, Beveridge said.

From April 2010 to July 2012, Florida’s population grew about 2.7%. In the same period, New York’s grew only 1%. The national growth rate for the period was 1.7%.

While New York City and its surrounding suburbs, the Albany area, and Ithaca are all growing, much of upstate New York is experiencing declines in population, Beveridge said.

Manufacturing jobs have diminished in northern New York cities like Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse. Florida, on the other hand, is seeing a jump in tourism, real estate, construction, medicine and finance.

But immigration is also an important factor in explaining Florida’s rise.

“Florida’s growth for many years has been due primarily to migration,” Smith said. “Typically, 80 to 90% of growth in the state has to do with people moving in.”

The spike in migration includes people moving from other states as well as from abroad, Smith said. Based on responses to BEBR surveys, Smith said, most people moving to Florida do so for job-related reasons. The state also draws retirees seeking a warmer climate.

When Florida surpasses and continues to outpace New York in population, it will likely end up with more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives after the next official census, in 2020. After the last release of official census data, from 2010, New York lost two seats and Florida gained two. Both states now have 27 House members.

California (38.33 million) is still far and away the most populous state, according to Monday’s report. Texas, where an estimated 26.45 million people live, is second.