Notable Population Growth in Small Southeast Towns

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Small Southeastern towns dominated the list of the nation’s biggest population increases last year. The U.S. overall grew its population by an average of 0.5% in 2023, according to the latest estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. But a handful of small markets logged significantly more growth, and most of them are affordable retirement destinations or beach spots in the Southeast. Beach towns started to outperform back in 2021, when the work-from-home trend allowed workers to migrate to smaller, more affordable locales with lifestyle appeal. Meanwhile, retirees have long been drawn to Florida, with affordable small towns and forgiving weather. And this trend has increased as the Baby Boomer generation has aged. Three retirement towns close to Orlando were some of the nation’s population growth leaders in 2023. Wildwood-The Villages logged an increase of 4.7%, while Lakeland-Winter Haven grew by 3.8% and Ocala swelled by 3.4%. Beach towns Myrtle Beach, Port St. Lucie, Wilmington and Daphne logged population growth between 2.8% and 3.7% in 2023. The only markets with population growth of 2.8% or more that don’t identify as retirement villages or beach towns were Hinesville, GA, Midland, TX and Spartanburg, SC.