Utah’s population swelled by an estimated 52,820 people — equivalent to adding a city the size of Herriman — during the fiscal year that ended July 1, 2020, as a yearslong economic boom ended and the pandemic and its recession began.
The hotbed of growth in the state was Utah County, where the population grew by 19,437. That was 61% more than the 11,899 people added by Salt Lake County, the most populous in the state.
And births in the state dropped to their lowest level in 21 years — allowing immigrants to add to the population almost equally with new babies, who a decade ago provided three-quarters of the growth in a state known historically for its big families.
Those findings were released Thursday by the Utah Population Committee, formed by the Legislature to develop local estimates to serve as a check on U.S. Census Bureau data that often determine government funding. The committee uses such things as birth and death records, school enrollment, building permits and church records for its estimates.
“Utah closed out the decade with another year of strong population growth,” the state panel’s report said. “Net migration is contributing the majority of growth in the fastest growing counties in the state, such as Utah, Washington, Tooele and Iron counties, a notable shift for Utah County, in particular.”
Historically, “natural increase” — or the number of births minus deaths — has created most of the population growth in Utah, accounting for 77% of it statewide in 2011. That decreased to 52% the past year.
“Utah’s 46,510 births in fiscal year 2020 are at the lowest level since 1999,” the report added.
Still, the reported noted that Utah maintains one of the highest fertility rates in the nation, although it declining over time like the rest of the nation.
Utah’s total fertility rate — the total number of children that women in the state would expect to have in their lifetimes — has dropped to No. 4 nationally at 2.026, behind South Dakota, North Dakota and Nebraska.
The report said only three counties — Kane, Piute and Wasatch — have seen a cumulative increase in births since 2011. And 25 of the 29 counties have experienced increases in deaths since then as the population ages.
“We also anticipate a higher number of deaths in 2021 due to COVID-19, leading to a sharper decline in natural increase if births do not increase,” the report said.
Meanwhile, immigrants provided 48% of Utah’s growth statewide last year, the largest portion this decade.
Utah County’s estimated growth of 19,437 was its largest of the decade, and a slight majority of that — 10,531 — came from immigration. That was its second-highest immigration in history after a slightly higher record set in 2006.
But Utah County was only the third-fastest growing county by percentage at 2.98% for the year. Faster were Washington County at 4.06% (adding 7,328 people) and tiny Daggett County, which grew by 3.11% (adding just 31 people) despite its distressed economy.
Only two counties lost population last year: Grand (down 18 people) and Emery (down three people).
The new report estimates that Utah gained 509,000 people since the 2010 census — about 2.5 times the population of Salt Lake City. It estimates the state population now at 3.273 million.
The largest counties in the state, according to its latest estimates, are: Salt Lake, 1,164,859; Utah, 670,844; Davis, 359,925; Weber, 255,468; Washington, 187,878; Cache, 133,741; and Tooele, 72,692.
The smallest county is Daggett at 1,024 people.
Utah births plummet but the state’s population continues to grow /p>