Wake County has a new fastest growing town, according to the Census Bureau

Cary, Holly Springs, Morrisville and Rolesville have all laid claim to being the fastest growing town in Wake County at one time or another. Now that mantle belongs to Knightdale.

In fact, Knightdale was the third fastest growing town in all of North Carolina last year, according to the latest population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. The town grew more than 10 percent in the year ending last July 1, to an estimated 17,423 residents.

The census numbers show a shift in Wake’s population growth toward the east, with Wendell, Zebulon, Rolesville and Garner all growing by 6 percent or more last year. For decades, those communities lagged their counterparts in western Wake that were closer to Research Triangle Park, but with the opening of Interstate 540 and what is now known as Interstate 87, developers, renters and home buyers are increasingly looking their way.

The only other Wake County town to grow at that pace was Apex, which swelled 6.8 percent last year to an estimated 53,852. The Census Bureau listed Apex as the third fastest growing town of at least 50,000 residents in the entire country.

Population growth in the Triangle’s largest cities was modest by comparison. Raleigh’s population edged up just 0.8 percent last year, to 469,298, and the city remained the country’s 41st largest, after Miami.

The country’s fastest-growing cities are mostly in the South and West, according to the annual estimates from the Census Bureau. Charlotte added 13,151 residents last year, ranking fifth in numeric growth ahead of Austin, Texas, and trailing only Seattle, Fort Worth, San Antonio and Phoenix. Charlotte passed Indianapolis to become the country’s 16th largest city.

In a state with a growing population, nearly one in three cities and towns lost population last year. Among them were places that have been shrinking for years, including Eastern North Carolina cities Rocky Mount, Kinston, Goldsboro and Roanoke Rapids. But the Census Bureau also says Carrboro’s population declined by 191 residents last year, or just less than 1 percent, reversing a trend that goes back several years.

Among the other findings in the census numbers:

Durham’s population grew 1.7 percent last year, to an estimated 274,291, making it the country’s 75th largest city after Toledo.

Cary grew by 1.4 percent, to an estimated 168,160. Except for Cary and Raleigh, all the towns in Wake County were among the top 25 fastest growing in the state.

After remaining flat for several years, Chapel Hill’s population has begun to grow again. The town grew 3.4 percent last year, to an estimated 60,988.

Dating back to the last census in 2010, Rolesville is by far the fastest growing town in the Triangle, swelling nearly 113 percent to an estimated 8,111 last summer. But last year, five other Triangle towns — Knightdale, Wendell, Clayton, Apex and Zebulon — grew at a faster clip than Rolesville.

Garner has trailed other Wake County towns in population growth this decade, but grew 6 percent last year, to 30,502, making it the 13th fastest growing town in the state.

Related stories from Raleigh News & Observer