Here are the fastest-growing metropolitan areas with 1 million or more people. (graphic) LOOKING FOR ELBOW ROOM SMALL CITIES ARE BEAUTIFUL, NEW CENSUS REPORT INDICATES

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The Midwest has rebounded, Florida-with the exception of Orlando and Naples-has lost its luster and there's a gold rush of sorts in the Mountain States and Pacific Northwest.

Those are among the findings of a new U.S. Census Bureau report on population shifts from 1990 to 1992, which chronicles a continuing migration to smaller metropolitan areas, especially in the West.

For marketers, the implications are huge, experts say. Professional workers who flee major urban centers for cheaper, less crowded areas will accelerate sales of high tech products that allow them to telecommute. Population growth from Mexican and other immigrants will fuel marketing efforts to new non-English speaking households. And advertisers will micromarket to smaller population segments spread among wider areas.

The Las Vegas area grew fastest in the two-year period, with a net gain of nearly 120,000 people, up 14%. Close behind were Laredo, Texas, and Yuma, Ariz. Of course, smaller population bases in such areas make large percentage gains easier to come by.

But the big news is the near-absence of California and Florida from the top growth list. Although Florida cities accounted for nine of the 10 fastest-growing cities in the 1980s, only Bakersfield, Calif., and Naples, Fla., were represented this time around.

"Growth in Florida has slowed down quite a bit from the '80s," said Don Starsinic, a Census Bureau analyst. "In fact, the area might be getting a little overcrowded, like California is."

One exception is Orlando, where tourism has boosted population by 6.5% in the two-year period, making it the fastest-growing area with 1 million or more residents. Other big Sun Belt centers like Atlanta and Houston also continue to enjoy robust growth, both rising 6.2%.

Indeed, only 20 of the 268 metropolitan areas lost population in the 1990-1992 period, down from 54 during the 1980s. And unlike the '80s, when the Midwest faltered and many residents left those states, most of the new losses came from recession-battered New England cities like Boston; Hartford, Conn.; and Providence, R.I. Just one Midwestern metro area lost population in the survey period, down from 23 in the 1980s.

Demographers say the shifts are dual. While Hispanic and other immigrants continue to flood areas like California and Texas, many moderate- and lower-income residents there are fleeing.

"What's really happening, it seems, is these inland smaller cities like Las Vegas, Laredo and Yuma are growing so fast not because yuppies are moving out of L.A. but because carpenters are," said Brad Edmondson, editor in chief at American Demographics.

Mr. Edmondson and others say anecdotal evidence suggests the exurban and rural ideal epitomized by TV's "Northern Exposure" is becoming more of a reality.

"I'm hearing more in focus groups that people are wanting a less stressful life," said Judith Langer, president of Langer Associates, a New York-based market researcher and trend consultant. "They think the country-being out of the rat race-has more appeal, and it's more possible to do because of telecommuting .*.*. People marketing faxes and modems and all sorts of paraphernalia will do well in the future."

The Mountain States and Pacific Northwest are particularly hot: A survey last month by Ryder Truck Rental ranked Boise, Idaho, first among cities based on the ratio of move-ins to move-outs, and much of the population influx to Boise; Portland, Ore.; and Seattle has come from Californians.

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