Top NW counties for gaining population (green) and losing population (tan)
Census estimate releases are always good cause for some spreadsheet runs, and since the mid-2006 census estimates by county came out today, we decided to take a regional overview. (Stories about the state views are in most newspapers; if you know of anyone else doing a northwest-wide view, let us know.)
The region’s 119 counties are a varied lot, from King’s estimated 1,826,732 people (still many more than live in all of Idaho, and nearly half of Oregon’s total population) down to Idaho’s Clark (not to be confused with Washington’s Clark) with 920 people, now the only county in the region under 1,000 people.
All of the most populous counties in the region have been growing. In percentage since 2000, the fastest growing has been Washington’s Clark, at 18.8% since 2000 (adding 53,694 people since then, more than any regional county but King, which added 71,401).
Idaho’s Ada County, now at 359,035 people, grew fastest among big counties in the last year, but since 2000 ranks sixth for total population added (46,127), behind five counties all larger in population regionally (King, Snohomish, Pierce and Clark in Washington, and Washington County in Oregon).
To find mass runaway growth among Northwest counties, skip a little further down the list. Canyon County (Nampa-Caldwell), Idaho, the 17th most populous, grew by about 30.2% the first six years of this decade, and Deschutes County (Bend-Redmond), Oregon, ranking 19th, by about 27.9%.
In fact, of the top 19 counties for raw number addition, all have estimated populations of 130,000 or more, except one surprise: Franklin County, Washington (its county seat is Pasco), which added 15,707 of its estimated current 66,570 people in the last six years. The Tri-Cities should be getting a lot more attention as a growth spot; its larger neighbor Benton County (now at 159,463; the biggest city is Kennewick) added 15,707 people during the period too.
But the fastest percentage growth county in the region over the last year is not one of the largest, and one few outside southwest Idaho might have guessed: Valley County, the McCall-Donnelly-Cascade area, adding about a 1,000 people its small cohort, driven largely by the growth around the Tamarack ski area. (It was followed by Franklin County, Washington, and then Deschutes.)
This isn’t a rural vs. urban thing – or even broadly geographical. On the map, see how the big population gainers and losers often jostle next door to each other.
There is, of course, the aspect of population losses, overshadowed as they may be by growth.
The county with the biggest reported loss since 2000 may be a little misleading. Elmore County, Idaho, is home to – is anchored by – the Mountain Home Air Force Base, and base-related population shifts likely account for the bulk of the county’s population drop of 985. Less simply explained is the 527 from smaller Harney County (think Burns), Oregon, or the 517 from third-place Minidoka County, Idaho (think Rupert).
What do the population losers have in common? They’re all rural, but then so are some of the big population gainers. The difference seems to be that the decliners aren’t places where people are moving to for lifestyle purposes, or (generally) buying second homes. Or where, if those things are happening, they’re swamped by declines in older industries (such as in Idaho’s Shoshone and Custer counties).
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