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Nevada’s population growth slows, fourth congressional seat still likely



by Sean Whaley – Nevada News Bureau

Nevada’s once red-hot population growth slowed significantly this year compared to 2008, expanding by just over 27,000 residents to 2.64 million, according to an estimate released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The grown rate from July 1, 2008 to July 1 this year was only 1 percent, a far cry from years past when Nevada grew annually by 3 percent or more and frequently Nevada led the nation in growth. From 2007 to 2008, Nevada added 48,000 residents for a 1.9 percent growth rate. The previous year saw a 3 percent growth rate.

Despite the slowing growth rate, Nevada would gain a fourth Congressional seat based on the July 1 estimates according to several different analyses. But it will be the actual 2010 census count, which will be released about this time next year, that will determine if Nevada gains another seat.

Katrina Wengert, a demographer with the U.S. Census Bureau, said the agency does not make such calculations.

“We hope our estimates are right in line with census 2010, but we don’t know what is going to happen,” she said. “We do know growth in Nevada has slowed quite a bit. It is definitely a change for Nevada, which was a fast grower for many years. It has potential implications for 2010.”

Nevada State Demographer Jeff Hardcastle said the state is unlikely to see a return anytime soon to the strong growth rate it experienced for much of the past six decades.

“The next two years, given the national and international economies, will see slow growth or at least fairly flat for us,” he said.

Most of Nevada’s growth in the latest census estimate is due to births, not migration into the state, Hardcastle said.

Nevada’s growth for much of the 1990s was the state’s gaming economy, which faced little competition, he said. Low housing prices and plenty of available land and water continued the pattern.

“That’s all changed,” Hardcastle said.

According to the Census Bureau estimates, Texas gained more people than any other state between July 1, 2008, and July 1, 2009 with 478,000 new residents, followed by followed by California with 381,000, North Carolina with 134,000, Georgia with 131,000 and Florida with 114,000.

“This is the final set of Census Bureau state population estimates that will be published before the official 2010 Census population counts to be released next December,” said Census Bureau Director Robert Groves. “We are focused now on ensuring we get a complete and accurate count in 2010. The census counts will not only determine how many U.S. House seats each state will have but will also be used as the benchmark for future population estimates.”

Wyoming showed the largest percentage growth: its population climbed 2.12 percent to 544,270 between July 1, 2008, and July 1, 2009. Utah was next largest, growing 2.10 percent to 2.8 million. Texas ranked third, as its population climbed 1.97 percent to 24.8 million, with Colorado next at 1.81 percent to 5 million.

The only three states to lose population over the period were Michigan, -0.33 percent, Maine, -0.11 percent and Rhode Island, -0.03 percent.

Other highlights:

– Net domestic migration has slowed dramatically in many states in the South and West, including Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, North Carolina, South Carolina and Montana.

– Several states have negative net domestic migration, which means more people are moving out than moving in. Florida and Nevada, which earlier in the decade had net inflows, are now experiencing new outflows. Nevada’s population grew because of births and international migration into the state.

– The nation’s population as of July 1, 2009, was 307 million, an increase of 0.86 percent since July 1, 2008.

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