Friday, March 31, 2017

What’s Your County’s Population?

U.S. Census Bureau releases 2016 county population estimates.

By Lecia Parks Langston, Senior Economist

“In a region with a growing population, if you’re doing nothing, you’re losing ground.” Stewart Udall

The Census Bureau just released population estimates for counties and metropolitan statistical areas across the United States. Yes, it was just a few months ago that Utah made headlines as the fastest-growing state in the nation. So, it should come as no surprise that several Utah sub-areas also appeared on the fastest-growing lists.

San Juan County ranked as the fastest growing county in the nation with a 2016 growth estimate of 7.6 percent. Keep in mind that less than 17,000 people live in the county. In other words, a small numeric change in this less-populated county can result in a large percent change.

In addition, three Utah regions ranked among the top 20 fastest-growing Metropolitan Statistical Areas in the country. The St. George, Utah MSA (sixth), Provo-Orem, Utah MSA (seventh) and the Logan, Utah-Idaho MSA (20th) all attained top-20 status. See additional information on the estimates after the “jump.”

Pick a Number, Any Number

Because the Census Bureau actually counts the population only once every decade, these figures are estimates. Plus, they aren’t the only estimates in town. The Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute has recently assembled the Utah Population Committee (UPC) to reinstitute the population-estimates work previously conducted by the Utah Population Estimates Committee (UPEC). The estimates can be found here.

Census Bureau estimates use the same methodology in producing population figures for every county in the nation. Therefore, for nationwide comparisons, Census Bureau estimates may have the advantage. On the other hand, UPC population estimates have the benefit of local-analyst expertise and additional data sources.

Quick Facts

• County population rankings in 2016 have remained essentially the same since 2015, with only Duchesne County dropping one position behind Carbon County.

• Seven Utah counties’ population estimates declined in 2016. Three counties are feeling the effects of the oil bust – Uintah, Duchesne and Daggett. In addition, coal-influenced Carbon and Emery counties also shed population. Finally, Piute and Garfield counties complete this group of population-losing areas.

• According to Census Bureau estimates, Utah County showed the strongest net in-migration, followed by Salt Lake and Washington counties.

• Ten counties experienced net out-migration; the previous seven population-losing counties along with Wayne, Millard and Rich counties.

• All Utah counties showed natural population increase (i.e., more births than deaths).

• Along with San Juan County (7.6 percent), the fastest growing counties in Utah included Wasatch (4.7 percent), Juab (4.2 percent), Iron (3.4 percent), Morgan (3.1 percent), Tooele (3.1 percent) and Washington (3.1 percent) counties.

• Beaver County showed its first net in-migration (and population growth) since 2010.

• Carbon, Emery and Garfield have registered population declines every year since 2010.

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