31 December 2013


Story first appeared on FreeP.com.

Michigan's population increased marginally for the second year in a row, a promising trend that experts say may mean fewer people are leaving the state to settle elsewhere.

Michigan saw population declines over a seven-year period between 2005 and 2011 before finally seeing a net gain in 2012. The new U.S. Census Bureau data released today show the state's population rose 0.1% -- 13,103 residents -- between July 1, 2012 and 2013.

During the same time period, the U.S. population increased 0.7%, or just under 2.3 million people. That's the slowest since 1937, according to Brookings Institution demographer William Frey, who called this year's growth "underwhelming."

The Census Bureau projects the nation's population on News Year's Day will be 317,297,938 -- an increase of 2,218,622 from New Year's Day 2013.

Michigan remains the 9th largest state this year, with an estimated 9,895,622 residents. It fell into 9th place in 2012, despite the small population increase, and North Carolina is closing in fast at 9,848,060 people.

If the current trend continues, North Carolina will likely surpass Michigan next year, knocking it into 10th place.

Kurt Metzger, founder of Data Driven Detroit, analyzed the data and attributes Michigan's population increase to a decrease in the net outflow of residents -- that is, the number of people leaving vs. the number of people coming to the state. Today's release did not include information on components of population change such as births, deaths and migration.

"The patterns of residents leaving Michigan for other parts of the country versus those moving into Michigan has always been the component of greatest importance to our population fortunes," Metzger said, noting that the net loss is closely linked to the state's economic outlook. "Michigan has a history of being a net out-migrant state."

In addition, Michigan's labor force -- those ages 16 and older who are working or actively looking for work -- has been shrinking since reaching about 5 million people in 2007, said Jason Palmer, research director at the Bureau of Labor Market Information & Strategic Initiatives.

That also may be changing. According to Palmer, 2013 could mark a turning point for Michigan's labor force -- which in 2012 was 4,657,000. In 2013, the labor force in Michigan averaged about 4.7 million so far.

Paul Tait, executive director of the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, predicts the population will stay flat in the coming years since Michigan's aging population means fewer births.

"When the economy really tanked, Michigan was hit disproportionately," Tait said. "We still have to keep the push on to diversify our economy."

Nationwide, the south and west regions of the country experienced the greatest population increase in both numeric and percentage figures. North Dakota had the largest percentage increase again this year, with a 3.1% growth -- no doubt fueled by what experts describe as an energy boom in the region.

The largest numerical gains were found among states with a large population base: California (332,643) and Texas (387,397), followed by Florida (232,111), North Carolina (99,696) and Colorado (78,909). Michigan's numerical growth (13,103) was greater than 17 other states, including the District of Columbia. 387,397

Two states -- West Virginia and Maine -- lost population.

Kenneth Johnson, a University of New Hampshire demographer, noted that Florida's population gain is about even with that of the past two years, but "still smaller than that during the 2000s, when Florida gained an average of 282,000 annually." Migration is key to maintaining Florida's population growth, he said, because the difference each year between births and deaths there is small.

A long-awaited milestone also will have to wait another year: Florida was poised to surpass New York for the first time as the third most-populous state -- after California and Texas -- but it didn't happen. New York, which supplies many snowbird retirees to the Sunshine State, still has about 98,000 more residents. But Florida, the figures show, is growing more than three times as quickly.

"It'll probably be next year," Frey predicted.


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