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People are moving to Utah, making it one of the fastest growing states in the US

Provo, Utah, USA view of downtown from Squaw Peak during an autumn dusk. Photo courtesy of Getty Images.

SALT LAKE CITY– The population of Utah is on the rise, and continues to be one of the fastest-growing states in the nation.

The state’s population growth is up 15.5% for the year, ranking first in the US in cumulative growth, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau

And despite a global pandemic, data collected from the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah outlines it didn’t slow people from moving to Utah or growing their family. 

Utah birth rates take a dip

 Since April 1, 2010, Utah has grown by 509,000 people, upping the state’s population to 3,273,000, explained demographer Emily Harris. And from 2019 to 2020, Utah experienced nearly the same growth rate of about 1.64%–adding 52,829 more people to the state’s population.

Harris said Utah is following a national trend of fewer births since 2008. In fact, she said Utah’s 46,510 births in the 2020 fiscal year are expected to be at the lowest level since 1999. However, because of the recession caused by the coronavirus pandemic, Harris noted it’s not unexpected to see lower birth rates. 

“A lot of times people change their fertility behaviors if there’s a lot of uncertainty,” said Harris. “I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect people may be having less children, and that COVID-19 may be impacting that. But right now, we just don’t have data to say for certain.” 

Since July 1, 2010, Utah overall has experienced an annual decline in natural increase due to fewer births and more deaths.

Utah is growing: the rise in the Beehive State 

Where Utah is lacking in birth rates is being made up elsewhere.

The latest numbers show a significant gain in net migration to Utah, accounting for nearly half of the state’s growth in the past year–adding 25,256 people to the state’s population. For the second year in a row, net migration has overtaken natural growth as the state’s main source of population growth.

Net migration now is the main source of population increase in counties with the highest growth. 

Several places in Utah rank among the nation’s highest areas of growth. For example, Wasatch County ranked third in the nation for fastest cumulative growth since 2010, with an increase of 44.9%.

St. George is the fifth fastest-growing metropolitan area in the U.S. and the Provo-Orem metropolitan area ranked ninth. The Cedar City metropolitan area was nationally ranked fourth in annual percentage growth.

This year, Washington County is the fastest-growing county in Utah, with a 4.1% jump in population growth. Harris said it fits a pattern of growth seen in the southwestern portion of the state.

“Washington County, so much of their growth is due to net growth and migration,” said Harris. “So, that shows that many people are moving there.”

Davis and Weber counties each showed less than 1% growth. And Box Elder County grew by 1.56%.

The flock to Utah County and Salt Lake County

The third fastest-growing county in the state is Utah County. Harris said there are many reasons for this, including an overall flight to more suburban communities, rapid development and the availability of jobs.

She said the county had the highest natural increase, but also the highest net migration in the state.

While Utah County saw a growth rate of nearly 3%, Salt Lake County’s population grew just over 1% over the one year span.

According to the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, only two counties in the state are believed to have lost population in 2020.

Duchesne and Grand counties shrank in numbers despite an increase in natural growth. Harris said their annual population declines are due to more people migrating out of rather than into, the counties.

Related: Despite the pandemic, rent in Salt Lake City continues to rise