Florida's population drops for first time since 1946

TALLAHASSEE — For the first time since the end of World War II, the growth state of Florida lost population, researchers say, in a sign that the economic recession is even worse than many had feared.

In all, the state lost about 58,000 people from April 2008 to April 2009, according to a new estimate from the University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

"It's such a dramatic shift from what we've seen in the past," said Stan Smith, the bureau's director.

"Florida's economy is, in a lot of ways, driven by population growth," he said. "Perhaps more importantly, population growth is a reflection of how the economy is doing both in Florida and in the nation."

Smith said the decline doesn't look like a trend. Instead, he sees it as a deviation from previous decades of growth upon which Florida's development-based economy relies. He also said the decrease is a "drop in the bucket" compared with Florida's 18.3 million population.

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