Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Washington’s population, like its economy, showing slow but steady growth

Washington state flag
You couldn’t call it a population boom, or even a boomlet, but Office of Financial Management (OFM) number crunchers estimate Washington’s population grew by about 50,000 over the past year.  To put that in perspective for the baseball fans out there, that’s about equal to a sell-out crowd at Safeco Field.  And for our friends over east of the mountains, it’s a brand-new Richland.  And if you’re keeping track, those 49,400 new folks bring the state’s official population to 6,817,770.  For what it’s worth, that’s more than Oregon and Idaho combined. 

How does this increase compare with past years?  It’s tiny compared to the spikes we were experiencing between about 1988 and ‘98, when net growth of 100,000 a year was unremarkable and some years topped out at better than 150,000 new Washingtonians.  But lately, the growth rate of about 3/4 of a percent has been typical.  Not surprisingly, most of the growth last year occurred in the state’s metropolitan counties:  King (14,400), Pierce (6,050), Snohomish (5,900), Clark (3,250) and Spokane (2,950).

OFM came up with its figures by adding “natural increase” – the number of births minus deaths – and net migration.  This year’s natural increase of 35,500 is slightly less than last year’s, continuing a three-year trend.  Net migration was 14,400, a bump over the previous year but nowhere near the figures of a decade or two ago.

The effects of population change, large or small, are felt throughout government, in areas as diverse as revenue, transportation planning, school construction, and corrections.  Lawmakers and anyone else who wants to dig deeper into the OFM population data can get the whole story at http://www.ofm.wa.gov/pop/april1/.

To read this story in Spanish, please click here.