By: Pamela S. Perlich
Census Bureau estimates released today confirm that Utah’s population surpassed 3 million and also had the most rapid growth rate last year. The state population for July 1, 2016 of 3,051,217 is an increase of 60,585, the 11th highest population growth amount among all states. Utah’s highest in the nation annual growth rate of 2.03 percent, outpaces second-ranked Nevada (1.95 percent), and third ranked Idaho (1.83 percent). Utah also became the 31st most populous state, increasing from a ranking of 34 in 2010. In the process, it surpassed Mississippi, Arkansas, and Kansas.
Natural increase (births minus deaths) contributed 58 percent of Utah’s annual growth while net in-migration (in-migration minus out-migration) contributed 42 percent. In these data, births are estimated to be 51,444 and deaths are 16,447. Natural increase peaked in 2008, both nationally and in Utah, and has been declining since then. Births have declined with onset of the Great Recession and deaths have increased with the aging of the population. Even so, Utah continues to have the highest birth rate (17.0 per 1,000 population) and lowest death rate (5.4 per 1,000 population) in the nation. Much of this is because Utah remains a relatively young state (lowest median age), but also because of its highest-in-the-nation fertility rate.
Net migration is estimated to be 25,412 in 2016, up from an estimated 14,397 in 2015. Net migration was minimal, both in Utah and nationally, from the onset of the Great Recession in 2008 through 2012. Net migration has accelerated recently in Utah, with its rate of net migration (8.4 per 1,000) ranking it 10th among all states.
County population estimates produced by the Utah Population Committee (UPC) and released earlier this month identify Utah County as having added 17,668 people, surpassing the estimated 14,223 increase in population in Salt Lake County. This is the third consecutive year that UPC estimates indicate that Utah County has added more population than Salt Lake County. This provides increasing evidence that the “epicenter” of Utah’s growth dynamic has shifted to Utah County. According to the UPC estimates, Wasatch County had the highest rate of growth (4.8 percent), followed by Juab (4.2 percent), and Morgan (4.0 percent). These, and other counties adjacent to the urban core, continue solid population growth. In addition, migration to Washington County has been firmly reestablished, resulting in an annual growth rate of 3.7 percent. Meanwhile six counties are estimated to have lost population, including Uintah, Duchesne, and Emery (energy counties) and Piute, Daggett, and Wayne.
Utah’s growth dynamic appears to have been reestablished at a new normal – a moderate and sustainable rate that is fueled by both natural increase and net in-migration.
Dr. Pamela Perlich is the director of demographic research at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute.