The U.S. population is on track for its slowest decade of growth since the Great Depression.
The Census Bureau estimates there will be 315.1 million people living in the country on New Year’s Day, a 0.73 percent rise from last year’s estimate and 2.05 percent more than the most recent census count in April 2010. At the current pace, the nation’s population will grow by 7.3 percent during the decade, the lowest level since the 7.25 percent increase recorded between 1930 and 1940, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The slow rate of growth during the first part of the decade indicates the U.S. continues to emerge slowly from the worst economic downturn since the 1930s. The nation’s birth rate and immigration fell in the aftermath of the 2007-09 recession. Between 2000 and 2010, the Census Bureau reported the nation’s population grew by 9.7 percent.
William Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program, said one bright spot is that mountain states in the West were among the fastest-growing places in the nation.
“There are some signs of growth in Nevada and Arizona, states that were hit particularly hard by the recession,” he said.
North Dakota, propelled by an energy boom, registered a 2.2 percent population increase between 2011 and 2012, according to census figures released earlier this month. It was trailed by the District of Columbia, which reported a 2.15 percent growth rate to reach its highest population total since 1987. The nation’s capital has lost 20 percent of its population over the last half-century, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Five of the 10 fastest-growing states between 2011 and 2012 were in the West. Wyoming, the least-populous state in the nation, grew 1.6 percent to 576,412 people. Utah, Nevada and Colorado increased their population by about 1.4 percent, and Arizona gained 1.3 percent to 6.6 million residents.
Two states lost population during the year. Vermont shed 0.1 percent of its residents to 626,011, and Rhode Island dipped 0.03 percent to 1.05 million people. West Virginia, which ranks No. 3 among states with the oldest median age of people, added 0.03 percent to its population, giving it almost exactly the same number of residents as it had in 1960.