News Column

U.S. Population Growth Lags

December 31, 2013

By Greg Toppo and Paul Overberg, USA TODAY

An aging Baby Boomer population and slower immigration combined for nearly stagnant U.S. population growth in 2013 as the total number of residents increased at the slowest pace since the Great Depression.

Figures released Monday by the Census Bureau show that growth for the 12 months ending July 1 was 0.71%, or just under 2.3 million people. That's the slowest since 1937, according to Brookings Institution demographer William Frey, who called this year's growth "underwhelming." In 2011-12, the U.S. population grew at a slightly higher 0.75% rate.

As another calendar year begins, the Census Bureau projects the nation's population on New Year's Day will be 317,297,938, an increase of 2,218,622, or 0.7%, from New Year's Day 2013.

Frey was expecting three states to show a burst of growth as the USA economy slowly improves, but Florida, Arizona and Nevada each averaged only about 1.2% to 1.3% growth.

Kenneth Johnson, a University of New Hampshire demographer, noted that Florida's population gain of 232,000 people is about even with that of the past two years but "still smaller than that during the 2000s, when Florida gained an average of 282,000 annually." Migration is key to maintaining Florida's population growth, he said, because the difference each year between births and deaths there is small.

The new figures aren't exactly surprising, demographic analysts said. "This isn't the end of civilization as it might be characterized, but the Northeast and Midwest have essentially stalled out completely," said Robert Lang of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas.

A long-awaited milestone also will have to wait another year: Florida was poised to surpass New York for the first time as the third-most-populous state, after California and Texas, but it didn't happen. New York, which supplies many snowbird retirees to the Sunshine State, still has about 98,000 more residents. But Florida, the figures show, is growing more than three times as quickly.

Other findings:

•Maine and West Virginia were the only two states to lose population in the year ending July 1. They have remained almost unchanged since 2010.

•Since 2000, only Michigan has lost population, dropping 0.4%.

•Puerto Rico lost 1% of its 3.6 million people, extending an exodus of more than 5% since it peaked in 2004. The commonwealth's economy has been hit by job losses, government spending cuts and the end of a federal tax break for pharmaceutical manufacturers.

•North Dakota, buoyed by an oil boom, was the fastest-growing state.

Source: Copyright 2013 USA TODAY

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