In the first few years of this century, new residents flooded into Florida. But by the end of the first decade, the wave of new residents became more of a ripple as the state lost a million jobs, according to a new study by the University of Florida.

Between 2003 and 2006 the Sunshine State experienced yearly population increases that were some of the largest in its history and among the greatest in the nation, averaging between 280,000 and 320,000 a year. By the end of the decade its population growth rate had fallen to its lowest in more than 60 years.

The loss of about one million jobs between 2007 and 2010 is the culprit for Florida’s flagging population.

“Jobs are a major reason people come to Florida,” said Stan Smith, director of the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the university’s Warrington College of Business Administration.

It’s not that the state’s population decreased in the decade. Florida’s permanent resident population increased by more than 2.8 million between 2000 and 2010, a rise of 17.6% to a total of 18,801,310. That gave the state the third largest numeric increase and the eighth largest percentage increase in the country.

However, that growth rate lagged behind previous decades. Between 1970 and 2010, Florida’s annual population increases averaged between 280,000 and 320,000 new permanent residents. The study predicts that growth will drop off considerably in the future. The state is projected to have an annual growth rate of 252,000 from 2010 to 2020; 255,000 between 2020 and 2030; and 220,000 for 2030 through 2040.

“The collapse of the housing market and the lingering effects of the worst economic crisis since the 1930s are likely to keep the state’s population growth at relatively low levels for another year or two,” Smith said. “We expect growth to increase thereafter, reaching levels more in line with historical patterns by the middle of the decade. For many counties, however, future increases are likely to be smaller than those occurring during the last several decades.

All but two of Florida’s 67 counties gained population during the past decade, with four counties growing more than 50% and 20 by more than 20%. The state’s largest three numerical population increases in the past decade occurred in Orlando’s Orange County, climbing by 249,612 to 1,145,956, people; Miami-Dade County, which went up 242,656 to 2,496,435; and Tampa’s Hillsborough County, up 230,278 to 1,229,226.

But the fastest growth in the state occurred in two relatively rural counties thanks to mega-developments in each. Flagler County, south of St. Augustine on the state’s east coast, grew by 52%, from 49,832 to 95,696, thanks to the popularity of its Palm Coast development. And Sumter, one of three counties where The Villages retirement community builds homes, grew by 57%, from 53,345 to 93,420, in the decade.

Only two counties didn’t grow in the decade, one of them being Monroe, home to Key West where swamps prevents much future development. The population there fell by 6,499 to 73,000. The other was small, densely populated Pinellas County, where there is also not much room for future development. Its population fell 4,953 to 916,543.

Teresa Burney is a senior editor for Builder magazine.

Learn more about markets featured in this article: Orlando, FL, Tampa, FL, Miami, FL.