North Carolina

Wake leads population growth in North Carolina

The skyline of downtown Raleigh as seen from the bridge over railroad tracks on Boylan Avenue. The metro area anchored by Wake County was the 15th fastest-growing metro area for the year ending July 1, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The skyline of downtown Raleigh as seen from the bridge over railroad tracks on Boylan Avenue. The metro area anchored by Wake County was the 15th fastest-growing metro area for the year ending July 1, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. jhansen@newsobserver.com

The metro area anchored by Wake County was the 15th fastest-growing metro area in the country in the year ending July 1, according to the latest population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The Census report, released Thursday, highlights the uneven growth in North Carolina since the recession of 2009. It shows that about half of the state’s 100 counties have lost population since the 2010 census, compared to only seven in the previous decade.

Most of the counties that have lost population are in rural areas, led by Northampton County in the northeast part of the state, which had 7 percent fewer residents last summer than it did in 2010.

In contrast, the state’s two largest metropolitan areas – the Triangle and Charlotte – continue to draw in new residents. Wake County ranked 18th nationwide in numerical growth in the year ending last July, adding an estimated 23,667 residents, and Mecklenburg County was 24th, growing by 20,025 people.

The Raleigh metro area – defined as Wake, Johnston and Franklin counties – grew 2.2 percent last year, faster than all but 14 metro areas in the country. It had 1,242,974 residents last summer.

The Durham-Chapel Hill metro area, of Durham, Orange, Chatham and Person counties, had an estimated 542,710 residents.

Other findings from the census report:

▪ Wake has been the fastest-growing county in the state since 2010, adding 10.1 percent to its population since then. The Census Bureau estimated that 998,691 lived in the county July 1; county officials celebrated Wake’s 1 millionth resident in September.

▪ Even Wake’s growth has slowed from its pre-recession clip. The county’s population has grown an average 2.45 percent a year since 2010, compared to an average of 4.55 percent a year from 2005 through 2008.

▪ Durham has been the state’s fifth fastest-growing county since 2010, at 8.7 percent. Its population in July was an estimated 294,460.

▪ Chatham has replaced Johnston as the fastest-growing suburban county in the Triangle. Chatham’s population has grown 7.7 percent since 2010, to 68,698, while Johnston grew 7 percent to 181,423.

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