SALT LAKE CITY — It’s believed Utah’s population grew by more than half a million over the past decade, but there are signs of growth stabilization, according to a new report released Thursday.
University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute released its annual state and county population estimates, which projected there were about 3.273 million people living in Utah as of July 1. If that’s true, it would be an increase of 509,115 people in the span since the 2010 Census was completed. It’d be an increase of 18.4%
Of course, the findings of the report are more of a placeholder as the Census Bureau completes information from the 2020 Census. The enumeration for all states is expected by the end of the month, which is when an official count of the population of all the states is revealed. The enumeration for all counties in the country is expected in the spring.
The institute’s report provides a possible sneak peek as to what to expect when the census information is released. Although it’s still too early to know what it would mean for one of the most important byproducts of the decennial census: congressional apportionment.
Inside the statewide growth
2020 threw a curveball for researchers on the project just like anyone else. The annual report typically looks at data to make the estimate for July 1 every year. This year, about three-fourth of the information came pre-pandemic while the remaining quarter came afterward.
As a result, researchers looked at multiple data sources before and after the start of the pandemic to come up with a possible answer. Ultimately, they projected a population of 3.273 million, which is an increase of 52,829 people, or 1.64%, from the 2019 estimate.
It’s believed that the state’s population has grown every year since 2010 but the growth has slowed down a bit. The 1.64% increase in 2020 would be the lowest year-over-year increase since it was 1.37% in 2014, according to the report. The largest growth rate of the decade came in 2017, at 1.93%. It was listed at 1.69% in both 2018 and 2019.
“Utah closed out the decade with another year of strong population growth, a consistent pattern since 2013, although this growth has mostly stabilized since 2018,” researchers wrote in the report.
There are two factors for the population rise, which also help pinpoint this stabilization.
First, there were more babies born in Utah than total deaths reported but the data indicate the gap — known as natural increase — is slowly shrinking. That’s because the number of new births has slowed down while the number of deaths in the state has increased.
There were 52,899 births and 14,302 deaths in 2010, the report said, citing Utah Department of Health data. It estimated 46,510 births and 18,937 deaths in 2020, as births have declined and total deaths have gone up in the years between 2010 and 2020. The birth decline is a trend that’s existed since 2008 and exists nationwide, as well, researchers also pointed out.
As a result, the projected natural increase for 2020 was 27,573, which is down from 38,597 in 2010. In fact, it’s the lowest it’s been since the mid-1990s, the report finds.
The second reason for the growth is more people arriving in Utah than departing. Net migration, which is the number of people moving to the state compared to the number of people moving out, continues to remain high. This figure was estimated at 25,256 on July 1.
This statistic, experts said, shifts yearly, but it has remained consistent over the past few years. 2020 is the sixth-straight year Utah has ended up with a number between 20,000 and 30,000 new people through net migration.
Most counties experienced massive growth over past decade
Southern Utah, northern Utah and the south portion of the Wasatch Front highlighted year-over-year growth, according to the report. No county saw more percentage growth from 2019 to 2020 than Washington, which grew an estimated 4.06%.
It was followed by Daggett County in northeastern Utah at 3.11%. Utah (2.98%), Iron (2.67%) and Tooele (2.54%) counties rounded out the top five. Utah County’s population increased by an estimated 19,437 people from July 1, 2019, to July 1, 2020, which led all counties in total growth.
“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 in sources of growth for Utah County in particular,” the report stated. “Natural increase remains positive and contributes more than half of the state’s population growth, but continues to decline across the state and nation.”
Emery and Grand counties experienced population decreases of a combined 21 people.
But what about trends over the past 10 years?
All but three of Utah’s grew in population over the past decade, according to the estimates. More impressive, it projects that 20 of the state’s 29 counties experienced double-digit percentage growth over that period of time.
Percentage-wise, Wasatch County experienced the largest population boom in the span of 10 years. The report lists its growth at 42.1% or 9,914 more residents from 2010. Washington (36%), Morgan (31.2%), Utah (29.9%) and Tooele (24.9%) counties round out the top five, according to the report.
Utah County is believed to have the largest population increase in terms of total people added since 2010. Researchers believe it grew by 154,280 people over that time. In fact, Wasatch Front counties continued to outgain the rest of the state in sheer population.
Salt Lake (135,204) and Davis (53,446) and Weber (24,232) counties were listed as second, third and fifth in that category.
Washington County, in southern Utah, had the largest projected population increase outside of the Wasatch Front. The report estimated that its population grew by 49,763 people in 10 years.
Meanwhile, Daggett County, which experienced the second-highest year-over-year growth from 2019 to 2020, was still listed with a 3.3% decrease from 2010 to 2020. Emery (-2.8%) and Wayne (-0.3%) were the two counties projected to have lost residents since 2010. All three combined, it’s an estimated drop of 358 people.
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