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Fla. population shrinking or expanding? Not even movers or demographers agree on stats

MANATEE — Are more people moving out of Florida than moving in from other states?

Yes, one national moving company said in a report released Monday.

No, said another national mover that also released a similar report.

Both are probably right, but it’s more complex than just counting shipments, a state researcher said.

Atlas Van Lines said it handled 4,847 moves into Florida and 5,419 moves out of the state in 2009, the fourth consecutive year that departures outnumbered arrivals for the company.

But Allied Van Lines said it moved more people in than it took out last year, handling 4,538 moves into Florida and 4,066 moves out of the state.

It was the first time since at least 2005 that arrivals exceeded departures, the company said.

Stan Smith, director of the University of Florida’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research, said both companies’ statistics probably are accurate but have limited value.

“Data from moving companies like that represent a very small proportion of moves in Florida,” Smith said. “You can’t draw a conclusion on the number of people moving in and out of Florida from that.”

So, is the state’s population growing or shrinking? Just like the moving companies, demographers don’t agree.

Smith’s agency estimates that Florida lost 58,294 people from April 1, 2008, to April 1, 2009. Smith said the recession and national housing slump caused Florida’s first population decline since the end of World War II.

But the U.S. Census Bureau estimates the state actually gained more than 114,000 people from July 1, 2008, to July 1, 2009, even though some 31,000 more people moved out of Florida than moved in from other states. The Census said the state’s overall population grew because of people moving in from other countries and Florida births exceeding deaths.

The differing estimate dates is one possible cause for the disagreement. Another, more likely cause is that the estimates are based on different things.

The Florida agency uses residential building permits and active electric hookups, while the Census largely uses federal income-tax returns and Medicare enrollments. Both also use birth and death records in their calculations.

A more-accurate count won’t come until after the 2010 Census is conducted later this year.

So while they differ on Florida, the moving companies’ data generally agree on other states.

Both said Texas was the most-popular move-to state, while Michigan and Pennsylvania were the top move-out states. Allied and Atlas also said the number of moves they handled fell last year, which they blamed on the poor economy.

Duane Marsteller, transportation/growth and development reporter, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2630.

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