Economists' Outlook

Housing stats and analysis from NAR's research experts.

The Nation's Most Popular and Fastest Growing Metropolitan Areas in 2023

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A recently published update to the U.S. Census Bureau's population estimates allows NAR to examine population dynamics, including how natural change and net migration contribute to growth within metropolitan areas. An analysis of data from metropolitan areas between July 2022 and July 2023 showed that the South maintained its position as the nation's fastest-growing region.

Sustained Population Growth in the South

In 2023, Florida claimed four of the top ten fastest-growing metropolitan areas, and two more were in South Carolina. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, this underlines a larger trend of widespread population growth across the South, the nation's fastest-growing region from 2022 to 2023.

In Florida, the fastest-growing areas were Wildwood-The Villages (4.7%) and Lakeland-Winter Haven (3.8%), while slightly smaller population growth was seen in Ocala (3.4%) and Port St. Lucie (3.1%). In South Carolina, the fastest-growing areas were the Myrtle Beach-Conway-North Myrtle Beach area (3.7%) and the Spartanburg area (2.9%).

In contrast, slower growth and losses were recorded in other regions of the country. Between 2022 and 2023, the areas of New Orleans-Metairie, LA (-1.2%), Santa Cruz-Watsonville, CA (-1.0%), and St. Joseph, MO-KS (-1.0%) were the slowest-growing U.S. metropolitan areas.

In terms of residents added, significant gains occurred in Texas, which claimed four of the top ten largest-gaining metro areas. The gains occurred in Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington (152,598), followed by Houston-Pasadena-The Woodlands (139,789), making the two areas the most popular among movers that year. Austin-Round Rock-San Marcos (50,105) and San Antonio-New Braunfels (48,071) also recorded notable gains.

Additional increases occurred in Florida, specifically in Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford (54,916), Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater (51,622), and the state's largest metropolitan area, Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach (43,387). Altogether, the three metro areas added nearly 150,000 residents to the Sunshine State that year.

Among the top ten largest-gaining areas, only one non-Southern area, Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler, AZ (49,240), made it to the list. Meanwhile, California accounted for three of the top ten declining areas in the West. The areas Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim (-71,037), San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont (-11,220), and San Diego-Chula Vista-Carlsbad (-7,203) collectively lost nearly 90,000 residents during that period. Other significant declines in population were seen in the New York-Newark-New Jersey, NY-NJ (-65,549) and the Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN (-16,602) areas.

A Closer Look at the Nationwide Growth

Population growth data collected by the Census includes calculations of changes in vital events (births and deaths) and the changes in net migration (domestic and international). Between 2022 and 2023, natural change contributed 504,495 residents nationwide, while net migration accounted for a total of 1,138,989 new residents in all states.

In terms of net migration, the top four metropolitan areas in Texas accounted for a little over 260,000 new residents. In comparison, Florida's top three migration-gaining areas accounted for a little over 135,500 residents. Once again, the Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler, AZ area was the sole non-Southern area that made it to the top ten, showcasing a net migration gain of 25,892. Other top migration-gaining areas included Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell in Georgia (42,512) and Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia in North and South Carolina (40,670).

Among domestic movers, four areas in Texas stood out, with Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington (60,457) being the most popular. In contrast, the least popular areas were New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ (-238,494) in the Northeast and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA (-154,634) in the West. Even though Florida was mainly a winner among domestic residents, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach (-62,062) was the state's only metropolitan area that experienced losses.

However, the domestic losses experienced by these areas don't signify the endgame, as they continue to attract international residents. Between July 2022 and July 2023, the U.S. gained more than 1.1 million foreign nationals. The most popular areas among them included New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ (104,923), Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach, FL (94,725), and Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA (53,247).