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Guest view: Latest census data reveals trends to watch

The U.S. Census Bureau recently released new population estimates that account for and compare the resident population for counties between April 1, 2010 and July 1, 2018. The outcome? There are shifts in population taking place across the nation that may differ from what you might assume. Here are the highlights at a national and local level.

What’s happening locally?

Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster and York experience consistent growth. The most notable trend between 2010 and 2018 in Central Pennsylvania is that these counties all experienced consistent growth year-over-year. Moreover the growth was fairly even over the last eight years.

Another trend worth noting is that the counties have maintained the same order of ranking based upon population for eight-plus years. For example, in 2010 the counties in order of smallest population to largest were Cumberland, Dauphin, York and Lancaster. This is the same ranking we see in 2018, and every year in between.

Lancaster remains the largest and fastest-growing county. At 984 square miles, it also is the largest of the four counties. Between 2010 and 2018 it experienced the largest numeric growth at 24,112 people. No. 2 in numeric growth was actually the smallest of the four counties, Cumberland County, which grew by 16,017 people. York County grew by 13,301 people and Dauphin County grew by 8,997 people.

What’s happening nationally?

The census data confirmed that counties with the largest numeric growth are located in the south and the west. In fact, Texas claimed four out of the top 10 spots. Looking at population growth by metropolitan area, Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, Texas had the largest numeric growth, with a gain of 131,767 people, or 1.8 percent in 2018. Second was Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, Arizona, which had an increase of 96,268 people, or 2.0 percent. The cause of growth in these areas is migration, both domestic and international, as well as natural increase. In Dallas, it was natural increase that served as the largest source of population growth. For Phoenix it was migration.

The fastest growth occurred outside of metropolitan areas. Surprisingly, no new metro areas moved into the top 10 largest areas. Of the 390 metro areas in the U.S., (including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico), 102, or 26.2 percent experienced population decline in 2018. The five fastest-shrinking metro areas (excluding Puerto Rico) were Charleston, West Virginia (-1.6 percent); Pine Bluff, Arkansas. (-1.5 percent); Farmington, New Mexico (-1.5 percent); Danville, Illinois (-1.2 percent); and Watertown-Fort Drum, New York (-1.2 percent). The population decreases were primarily due to negative net domestic migration.

North Dakota was home to the fastest-growing county. Among counties with a population of 20,000 or more, Williams County, North Dakota, claimed the top spot as the fastest-growing by percentage. This county’s population rose by 5.9 percent between 2017 and 2018 (from 33,395 to 35,350 people). The rapid growth Williams County experienced was due mainly to net domestic migration of 1,471 people in 2018. The county also experienced growth between 2017 and 2018 by natural increase of 427 people and international migration of 52 people.

There is more growth than decline. Out of 3,142 counties, 1,739 (or 55.3 percent) gained population between 2017 and 2018. Twelve counties (0.4 percent) experienced no change in population, and the remaining 1,391 (or 44.3 percent) lost people. Between 2010 and 2018, a total of 1,481 (or 47.1 percent) counties gained population and 1,661 (or 52.9 percent) lost population. Though there has been more growth than decline overall, the numbers indicate that this can easily shift year over year.

A deeper dive into the census data reveals several demographic changes impacting commercial real estate development: household formations, aging baby boomers, growing millennials, women in the workforce and migration toward the South. Today’s demographic changes present challenges for commercial real estate developers, but they also offer lucrative opportunities to firms creatively adapting to new demands.

Mike Kushner is the owner of Omni Realty Group, a real estate firm in Harrisburg. He can be reached through www.omnirealtygroup.com.

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