By Lecia Parks Langston, Senior Economist
“Long-term economic growth depends mainly on nonmonetary factors such as population growth and workforce participation, the skills and aptitudes of our workforce, the tools at their disposal, and the pace of technological advance.” –Jerome Powell
U.S. Census Bureau releases 2018 county population estimates
The U.S. Census Bureau just released population estimates for counties and Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) across the United States. Utah ranked as the third fastest-growing state in the nation, behind only neighbors Idaho and Nevada. Not surprisingly, many of Utah’s counties also grew at a rapid rate.
However, only Wasatch County ranked in the top 10 nationally for percentage growth in 2018. In general, the South took the most growth honors — most notably Texas and Florida. Two of Utah’s MSAs ranked among the fastest growing metros in the country. The St. George, UT MSA ranked third, with the Provo-Orem MSA just making the list at number 10.
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 at the University of Utah has assembled the Utah Population Committee (UPC) to reinstitute the population-estimates work previously conducted by the Utah Population Estimates Committee (UPEC). These 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.
- County population rankings did not change between 2017 and 2018. Salt Lake, Utah, Davis, Weber and Washington counties are still the most populous counties in the state.
- Three of Utah’s county population estimates declined in 2018 — Emery, Wayne and Daggett.
- Counties in the western half of the state tended to show the highest growth rates.
- According to Census Bureau estimates, Utah County showed the strongest net in-migration, followed by Washington County and then Salt Lake County.
- Estimates suggest that six counties experienced net out-migration (more people moved out than moved in). These counties were either in Utah’s oil fields (Duchesne, Uintah and Daggett) or geographically centered within the state (Emery, Wayne and Garfield).
- All Utah counties showed natural population increase (i.e., more births than deaths).
- Along with Wasatch County (4.0 percent), the fastest growing Utah counties include Iron (3.8 percent), Tooele (3.7 percent) and Washington (3.5 percent).
- Carbon County experienced its first population growth of the decade.
- Emery County has registered population declines every year since 2010.
- Washington County’s recent population increases appear to have peaked in 2017.