The government is predicting that for the rest of the century the economies of Sun Belt metropolitan areas in the South and West will grow faster than manufacturing-dependent Rust Belt cities.

West Palm Beach, Fla., topped a list of 54 metropolitan areas whose growth between 1988 and 2000 was estimated in a Commerce Department report Thursday. The city was first in projected gains in total personal income, population and employment.Other cities ranking in the top 10 in all three categories were: Phoenix, Ariz.; Orlando, Fla.; Riverside, Calif.; San Diego; Sacramento, Calif.; and Tampa, Fla.

"The fastest growing areas . . . all benefit from strong migration flows. . . . This has been a part of their economic development for the past 25 years and the Commerce Department expects that to continue," said economist Mark Zandi of Regional Financial Associates in West Chester, Pa.

"Each of these areas has a good quality of life. Pollution, congestion and crime are not problems for the most part," he said. "Also, housing affordability, except for Riverside and San Diego, are still pretty good."

Other areas projected to have above-average growth are Anaheim, Calif.; Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; Atlanta; Seattle; Jacksonville, Fla., and Oakland, Calif., the department said.

The six areas with the slowest projected growth are New Orleans, New York, Rochester, N.Y.; Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Detroit. Others expected to grow at a below-average rate are Louisville, Ky.; St. Louis; and Bergen, N.J.

Zandi said the slower-growing areas, in general, have either a higher-than-average dependence on manufacturing or on a single industry such as oil.

"Even though output may be growing in manufacturing, improved productivity will keep growth in the number of jobs down," he said.

New York's economy should remain fairly good, Zandi said, but its growth ranking is low because there is little room left to expand.