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Wake wasn't the Triangle's fastest growing county last year

Traffic moves along Hillsboro Street in Pittsboro in this file photo from 2014. Chatham County has been the 11th fastest growing county in North Carolina since 2010.
Traffic moves along Hillsboro Street in Pittsboro in this file photo from 2014. Chatham County has been the 11th fastest growing county in North Carolina since 2010. rwillett@newsobserver.com

Wake County remains one of the fastest growing in North Carolina, but population growth has sped up more in some of the Triangle's collar counties, according to the latest estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

In the year ending last June 30, an estimated 1,072,203 people lived in Wake, the state's second most populous county after Mecklenburg. Since 2010, Wake's population has grown by more than 170,000, making it the second fastest growing county in the state during that time after Brunswick County at the coast.

But in the most recent year, population growth in Chatham, Franklin and Johnston counties outpaced Wake. Johnston was the third fastest growing county in the state, at 2.94 percent; Wake was ninth at 2.2 percent.

You don't have to travel far from Raleigh, though, to find counties that continue to lose population, including Caswell, Greene, Nash, Vance and Warren. Thirty-four of North Carolina's 100 counties had fewer residents last June 30 than on the same day a year earlier.

In contrast, 13 counties have logged double-digit population growth since the last census in 2010, including Wake, Johnston, Durham, Harnett and Chatham. The state's two largest metropolitan areas — Charlotte and Raleigh — have accounted for about two-thirds of the state's growth since 2010.

The U.S. Census Bureau released its annual population estimates for counties and metropolitan areas on Thursday. Here are some other findings:

Wake added an estimated 23,060 residents in the year ending last June 30. That comes out to 63 a day, which is the number that local politicians and others have been citing when they talk about growth and issues such as schools, roads, transit and affordable housing.

Since 2010, Orange County has been the slowest growing in the Triangle, at 8.21 percent. During that time, Harnett County's population has grown nearly 15 percent, fueled by suburban growth from both the Triangle and Fayetteville.

North Carolina has 15 metropolitan statistical areas, by the Census Bureau's reckoning, and all of them grew in the last year except three: Rocky Mount, Goldsboro and New Bern, which includes Craven, Jones and Pamlico counties. Nationwide, nearly 23 percent of all metro areas lost population that year.

The Raleigh metro area – defined as Wake, Johnston and Franklin counties – was the 16th fastest growing in the nation in the year ending last June 30, at 2.3 percent. With more than 1.3 million residents, the Raleigh metro area is now the country’s 43rd largest, just behind Memphis and ahead of Richmond, Va.

The Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill combined statistical area, which covers 12 counties from Harnett to the Virginia line, is home to nearly 2.2 million people, making it the 29th largest in the country.

Since 2010, 47 of the state's 100 counties have lost population, led by Bertie County, which has shrunk more than 9.5 percent. The state's least populous county, Tyrrell, has also lost population since 2010 but added 13 residents last year. Its population last June 30 stood at an estimated 4,052.

Richard Stradling: 919-829-4739, @RStradling
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