By Mike Schneider
Hispanic residents made up almost half of Florida's population growth last year, and the age gap between Florida's white and minority residents continued to widen, according to figures released Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Florida grew by more than 290,000 residents from July 2013 to July 2014, and more than 141,000 of those new residents were Hispanic.
"It's a continuation of a trend in terms of growth," said Stefan Rayer, population program director at the University of Florida's Bureau of Economic and Business Research. "The Hispanic population is increasing the most of any racial or ethnic group."
Florida's growth last year by almost 300,000 residents, a 1.5 percent increase, was close to the historical average that has added about 3 million residents to the Sunshine State each decade, Rayer said.
The share of non-Hispanic whites in Florida dropped to 55 percent of the population last year from 56 percent of the population in 2013.
Florida's minority populations were younger than the white population. The median age for non-Hispanic whites was 44 years, compared with 35 years for Hispanics and 32 years for black residents. Mixed-race Floridians had the youngest median age of all racial groups at 20 years.
Non-Hispanic white residents made up almost 90 percent of Florida's residents 65 or older. But they made up less than three-quarters of the working-age population and less than two-thirds of Florida's minors younger than 18.
The share of Florida's residents 65 or older grew to 19.1 percent from 18.6 percent, giving Florida once again the nation's highest percentage of residents who are senior citizens.
Sumter County was the nation's only county where seniors made up a majority of the population. Situated northwest of Orlando, it is home to the retirement haven The Villages.
"The net increase tends to be at the retirement age, and that is non-Hispanic white," Rayer said.
Hispanics last year made up 24 percent of Florida residents, slightly higher than in 2013. Black residents made up about 16.8 percent of Florida's population, barely changed from 2013, and Asians accounted for 2.8 percent of residents, also hardly changed.
St. Johns County had the biggest percentage growth in Hispanics, with a rate of about 9 percent, but the Hispanic population was small to start with at just fewer than 14,000 residents.
In pure numbers, the biggest Hispanic growth was in Miami-Dade, Broward and Orange counties. Miami-Dade added 27,000 new Hispanic residents, Broward added more than 17,000 Hispanics and Orange grew by almost 15,000 Hispanic residents.