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Washington’s population still rising, but pace abates

Tue., June 30, 2009

Estimate keeps Spokane at No. 2

OLYMPIA – We’re still growing, but it’s slowing.

That was the verdict Monday from Washington’s Office of Financial Management, which churns out annual population estimates for the state, cities and counties.

Washington’s population as of April 1, the agency estimates, was 6,668,200. That’s up about 80,600, or 1.2 percent, from a year earlier.

That’s a big change from 1991’s increase of about 155,000 people, or 2006’s 125,000.

A major factor in Washington’s growth is job-related migration to the state, said the state’s chief demographer, Theresa Lowe.

And while Washington’s economic prospects are better than California’s or Oregon’s, she said, the number of people who migrated to Washington is less than half of what it was three years ago.

“Many job seekers are finding it difficult to sell their homes” and don’t want to risk having to pay two mortgages, she said.

Also, she said, immigration to America has slowed, and many immigrants to the state have returned home because of the lagging economy.

The city-population estimates also mean that Spokane can maintain its claim as second-largest city in the state. Spokane has about 205,500 people, an increase of about 10,000 in the past decade.

Tacoma, which came within 600 residents of claiming the title in 2005, now has 203,400. Seattle has 602,000.

The state budget office extrapolates the numbers from changes in school enrollment and voting records as well as housing, driver’s licensing and other data.

Monday’s report shows housing growth has slowed in most major metropolitan areas of the state except Seattle.

New homes, including manufactured homes, numbered about 2,000 in Spokane County last year. That’s about half the rate of 2005-2006.

Most of the population growth since the 2000 census has been concentrated in Western Washington, according to the Office of Financial Management.

The fastest-growing counties are Franklin (47 percent), Clark (25 percent), Thurston (21 percent) and Kittitas (20 percent).

A second set of population numbers is due out Wednesday, when the U.S. Census Bureau will issue population estimates as of July 1, 2008.

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