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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Spokane

Area’s population growth uneven

Meghann M. Cuniff Staff writer

Idaho is the third-fastest growing state in the nation, but the growth has been lopsided, with some cities posting population declines.

State population estimates released Wednesday by the U.S Census Bureau show that Idaho had a 2.4 percent increase from July 2004 to July 2005.

While population numbers increased by more than 10 percent in 24 cities, it decreased by more than 5 percent in another 24 cities, according to data released in November from the Association of Idaho Cities.

A cluster of North Idaho cities is included in those 48, with Fourth of July Pass separating the increasing from the decreasing.

One reason for this could be the rise of modern industry in places like Coeur d’Alene and Sandpoint versus the fall of traditional industries like mining and timber in the Silver Valley, said Rep. Mary Lou Shepherd, D-Prichard. But, she said, the valley has been making a comeback in the past year – thanks to the economic development spurred by a surge in the area’s recreational activities.

“It’s a different type of population that we’re getting now from what we lost,” Shepherd said.

The addition of ski resorts and their accompanying condominiums brings people to the area, but those people come with money and don’t always offer a lot of opportunities for Idahoans to make some of their own, Shepherd said.

The number of jobs in the area should start increasing soon as a result of the recreational development, Shepherd said. “However, they probably won’t be the high-paying jobs that left when the natural resources (industries) left.”

Of the 24 cities with large decreases in population, 17 were cities with populations less than 1,000. The plight of those small Idaho cities is not new, and Shepherd said the population increases and development opportunities in the Silver Valley are the first in at least three decades.

Rupert, with a population of slightly more than 5,000, is the largest Idaho city to experience a significant population decrease, the second largest being Montpelier. Both are in southern Idaho.

The roughly 2,200-population town of Kellogg follows, with Glenns Ferry, Osburn and Pinehurst close behind. Of Idaho’s 200 cities, 125 have populations less than 1,000.

Idaho’s overall population increase isn’t enough to change its status as the 39th most populous in the union, a status it has held since 2000.

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