By: Emily Harris, M.S.

Utah made national headlines last December when the Census Bureau identified Utah as the fastest growing state in the nation. Today the Census Bureau released the county-level estimates for July 1, 2016, and Utah continues to make headlines. Three Utah counties, San Juan, Wasatch, and Juab, were in the top 10 fastest growing counties in the nation.

San Juan County, nestled in the Southeast corner of the state, was ranked as the fastest growing county in the nation (7.6 percent). The county’s population, as of July 1, 2016 is estimated at 16,895, up by 1,188 people.  San Juan’s record growth is largely attributed to net migration, with 1,051 people moving to the county between July 1, 2015 and July 1, 2016.  The population growth in San Juan County is a surprise because job growth in the county has been tepid.  The Gardner Policy Institute will be taking a closer look at the population dynamics in the county and evaluating this estimate.

Wasatch and Juab County, surrounding the Wasatch Front, were ranked fourth and ninth, respectively (4.7 percent, 4.2 percent). Both Wasatch and Juab’s main driver of growth was net migration as well, indicating that the ring around Salt Lake and Utah County is expanding as more people are moving into the region.

This release also included Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Areas. St. George (3.1 percent), Provo-Orem (3.1 percent), and Logan (2.3 percent, partially in Idaho) were among the top 20 fastest growing metro areas in the nation, adding to Utah’s prominence in the national rankings.

If we look at the estimates from a state perspective, 82 percent of the growth in Utah comes from the usual suspects: Salt Lake, Utah, Davis, Washington, and Weber. Salt Lake continues to have the largest population in the state (1,121,354) with the greatest natural increase (11,359), but Utah County has now surpassed Salt Lake and ranked highest in Utah for both absolute growth (17,503 – nearly 800 above Salt Lake) and net migration (7,447 – over 1,600 above Salt Lake). This confirms that Utah County is now becoming a major hub of growth for the state.

Utah has had a newsworthy year when it comes to Census population estimates, and we are very interested to see what patterns will emerge when the subcounty estimates are released in May.

A fact sheet detailing the latest Census Bureau release can be viewed here.

Emily Harris is a research analyst at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.