West Palm Beach, Fla., is projected to experience America's fastest pace of economic growth to the year 2000 along with other metropolitan areas in the Sun Belt, the Commerce Department said this week.

Cities in the Northeast and Great Lakes regions are expected to lag behind their southern and western cousins.

Phoenix; Orlando, Fla.; Riverside-San Bernadino, Calif.; San Diego; Sacramento, Calif.; and Tampa also are projected to lead the nation in income, population and jobs, according to the department's Bureau of Economic Analysis.

"West Palm Beach is projected to have the nation's fastest growth in total personal income, population and jobs," the Commerce Department said. "Phoenix is projected to have the second fastest growth in total personal income and the third fastest growth in population and jobs."

The West Palm Beach metropolitan area includes the communities of Boca Raton and Delray Beach.

Anaheim, Calif.; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Atlanta; Seattle; Jacksonville, Fla.; and Oakland also are expected to experience growth "well above the national average," the department said.

But economically ailing New Orleans is projected to experience a 0.1 percent decline in population to the turn of the century, the only major metropolitan area expected to lose people.

"Among the nation's seven largest metropolitan areas -- Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Detroit, Boston and Washington -- only Los Angeles and Washington will have economic growth above the national average to the year 2000," the Commerce Department said.

"Nearly 19 million new jobs are projected for the nation by the year 2000," the department said. "Los Angeles and Washington are projected to gain more than one-half million jobs each," it said.