In December, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that North Carolina’s population had topped 10 million last summer, growing by more than 102,000 in the year ending July 1.
Now the Census Bureau has released new numbers that show that more than two-thirds of that growth took place in the state’s two largest metropolitan areas – the Triangle and Charlotte – while large swaths of the state have lost population.
The populations of 48 of North Carolina’s 100 counties shrank in the year ending last July 1, continuing a trend that began with the 2009 recession and has not abated as the state and national economies have recovered.
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The counties that have lost population are mostly rural, with the most severe losses in the northeastern part of the state. Northampton and Tyrrell counties have lost more than 7 percent of their populations since the 2010 census.
By contrast, nine counties have seen double-digit population growth since 2010, led by Brunswick County on the coast, at 13.6 percent. Three of those fast-growing counties – Wake, Durham and Chatham – are in the Triangle.
The Raleigh metro area – defined at Wake, Johnston and Franklin counties – was the 16th fastest growing metro area in the nation in the year ending last July 1, at 2.5 percent. With nearly 1.3 million residents, the Raleigh metro area is now the country’s 44th largest, leaping ahead of Richmond, Va., and New Orleans last year.
Despite their close proximity, Durham and Raleigh have been considered separate metro areas by the Census Bureau since 2003, even as places like San Francisco-Oakland and New York-Newark are considered single metro areas. If Raleigh and the Durham-Chapel Hill metro areas were counted as one, it would contain more than 1.8 million residents and rank 37, just behind Nashville.
Here are other findings from the census report:
▪ The Census Bureau acknowledges that Wake’s population topped the 1 million mark sometime during the year ending last July 1. County officials estimated that its 1 millionth resident arrived in August 2014 and celebrated the milestone then. The official census estimate for Wake is 1,024,198.
▪ Wake added 24,927 residents last year, more than all but 18 other counties in the nation. Since 2010, Wake’s population has grown by 123,205, the equivalent of adding two Chapel Hills in five years.
▪ Durham County’s population has grown more than 11 percent since 2010 and topped 300,000 last year.
▪ Fed by new residents spilling over from the Triangle in the north and Fayetteville in the south, Harnett County has been the seventh fastest growing county in the state since 2010, at 10.7 percent. The county now has more than 128,000 residents.