When at the University of Florida, I worked on these statewide surveys for BEBR. Here’s the latest news from Gainesville researchers:

It’s a small bounce, but Florida’s population should rebound this year from its first loss in more than half a century in a hopeful sign for the struggling state economy, new estimates from the University of Florida show.

The Sunshine State is expected to add about 23,000 residents between April 1, 2009, and April 1, 2010, following a loss of almost 57,000 residents the previous year, according to population projections released today by UF’s Bureau of Economic and Business Research.

“Based on changes in electric customer data, we believe Florida’s population has increased slightly over the past year,” said bureau Director Stan Smith who led the research. “This may be an indication the state’s economy is no longer declining at the rate it had been before.”

“It appears the state’s population loss was a one-year occurrence,” Smith said. “Even so, Florida’s growth will be very slow during the early years of the new decade.”

Not until 2014 or 2015 will the state return to annual population gains that are close to 300,000, the average annual increase over the past 30 to 40 years, Smith said. Population grew by more than 400,000 residents a year during the housing boom between 2003 and 2006, he said.

The economy has such a big impact on Florida’s population growth because it drives migration, Smith said. People in their 20s, 30s and 40s who move to the state for jobs are the largest group of newcomers, followed by retirees and foreign immigrants, he said.

“Even retirees are affected by economic conditions because of the housing market,” he said. “If it’s difficult for them to sell their homes, they may have to delay a retirement move to Florida even if that is what they had been planning to do.”