Population growth has influenced change in Palm Beach County for several decades. From the 1980s, when it averaged about five percent per year, it dropped to an average of three percent during the 1990s due to a national recession; in 2008 county officials expected it to continue at about 2.3% per year. Demographic estimates indicate an even more diverse population racially from 2008 to 2013, with growth of 17 to 25% among all but white racial groups.
Due to past growth, the Palm Beach County School Board is now the fifth largest school district in Florida and the eleventh largest in the nation, and was the county’s biggest employer in 2011. The top 25 employers belonged to the following categories of goods and services:
No. of Employees
Education 25,271 (School Board, Florida Atlantic University, Palm Beach State College)
Government 15,559 (Palm Beach County, West Palm Beach, Boca Raton, South Florida Water Management Dist.)
Healthcare 16,962 (hospitals)
Agriculture 5,800 (Florida Crystals, U.S. Sugar, Thomas Produce, A. Duda & Sons)
Tourism 3,600 (Boca Raton Resort & Club, The Breakers)
Utilities 3,635 (FPL/NextEra Energy, Inc)
Security Services 3,000 (G4S Headquarters, in Palm Beach Gardens)
Aerospace/Aviation 2,105 (Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, Sikorsky Aircraft)
Office Supplies 2,250 (Office Depot headquarters, in Delray Beach)
Communications 1,300 (AT&T, in West Palm Beach)
In total production, tourism, construction, and agriculture remained Palm Beach County’s leading industries until 2007, when housing development slowed dramatically nationwide. Palm Beach County still leads the state in agricultural sales, despite a decrease in agricultural acreage for urban development.
Palm Beach County was ranked third as an "Up-and-Coming Tech City" by Forbes.com in 2008, due to the arrival of the Scripps Research Institute. The state and county have made large financial commitments in hopes of taking Palm Beach County to a leadership position in the biological sciences in the years to come.