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Along with salmon, Pacific Northwest reels in new residents

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Thursday, March 01, 2007

The Pacific Northwest remains a magnet for people moving from other states and other countries. Washington, Oregon and Idaho added about 953,500 people between Census Day 2000 and July 2006. The compound annual growth rate of these three states so far this decade — 1.39% — runs 39% faster than the national average. 


At different stages in the economic cycle, population trends can either drive economic fundamentals or be driven by them. In the Pacific Northwest, population growth is both cause and effect of economic growth.  People stream into the region to exploit the strongest employment growth so far this decade. Rising population in turn pushes demand higher for infrastructure, housing and all  goods and services. The process feeds on itself. 

We expect population to continue to grow at above-average rates as long as the regional economy continues to create a supply of new jobs.

Only two states — Arizona (3.6%) and Nevada (3.5%) — added people at a faster rate than Idaho (2.6%) in the 12 months to July 1. We calculate that Idaho ranks No. 5 in post-census growth, after Nevada, Arizona, Georgia and Utah.

Washington has added more than half a million new residents since Census Day. Note that international migration has been a very important component of Washington’s population growth.

Oregon’s growth rate slipped below the national average following two recession years. But growth has picked up briskly as employment growth has turned positive and its population growth rate has more than doubled in just two years.

Oregon’s two fastest-growing counties are the state’s high-desert playgrounds — Deschutes (Bend, Redmond) and Crook (Prineville). Others in the top five are Polk (west Salem), Washington (suburban Portland) and Columbia (down river from Portland).

— Excerpted from Marple’s Pacific Northwest Letter, editor Michael Parks.  For more information about this biweekly report on Northwest economic trends, visit www.marples.com.

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