Census: Latino growth fastest in exurbs of Orlando, Tampa

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s Latino population grew fastest last year in counties in the exurbs of Orlando and Tampa, according to U.S. Census figures released Thursday.

The new figures also showed strong Latino growth rates in counties outside Jacksonville, but those areas had comparatively small Hispanic populations to start with.

Among counties with more than 100,000 residents, St. Johns County near Jacksonville led the state in Latino population growth rate from July 2015 to July 2016. The county’s Latino population grew 7.5 percent, to almost 15,500 residents, in that period.

Counties with the next-fastest Latino growth rates were in exurbs of Tampa and Orlando: Hernando, Lake, Polk and Pasco counties. These central Florida counties had Latino growth rates ranging from 6.5 percent to 7.2 percent.

Miami-Dade continued to be the county with Florida’s largest Latino community – about 1.8 million residents, or two-thirds of the county’s overall population. Its Hispanic population increased by just less than 27,000 residents, or 1.5 percent, from 2015 to 2016.

It was followed by Broward County, with more than a half-million Hispanics, or more than a quarter of the overall population, and Orange County, with more than 400,000 Latinos, or 30 percent of the overall population. Both counties increased their Latino populations by just under 18,000 residents. That was a 3.3 percent increase for Broward County, home to Fort Lauderdale, and a 4.5 percent increase for Orange County, home to Orlando.

The Latino growth in central Florida has been fueled in recent years by migration from Puerto Rico, which has faced more than a half-decade of economic crisis.

Florida’s population during the year grew by more than 367,000 residents, the second-highest growth in pure numbers in the nation, behind only Texas. It now stands at 20.6 million residents, the third-most-populous state in the nation, behind California and Texas.

Florida had the nation’s fifth-highest median age, at 42.1 years, surpassed only by Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and West Virginia. Nationwide, the median age was 37.9 years old.

Several Florida counties had among the nation’s oldest median age. Sumter County, home to the Villages retirement community northwest of Orlando, had a median age of 67.1 years, the oldest in the nation. Sumter County also had the largest jump in median age in the past decade and a half, going from more than 49.2 years in 2000 to 67.1 years in 2016.

Charlotte County on the Gulf Coast had a median age of almost 58.8 years, the third oldest in the nation.