You might call it a “tale of two states.”
According to estimates released on Thursday by the U.S. Census Bureau, King County enjoyed remarkable population growth for the year ending July 1, 2013, ranking among the top four large counties in the nation for both the rate at which it added new residents and for the overall increase in population.
But the census data also reveal that 11 of the state’s 39 counties are dying — undergoing what demographers call “natural decrease,” with the number of deaths exceeding the number of births in that one-year period. The census data show that nationwide, about 1,000 counties displayed this trend.
Several conditions make an area vulnerable to natural decrease, including an aging population, a low birth rate and a poor economy, which makes it difficult to retain or attract younger people.
The majority of the nation’s dying counties are in rural areas, and this holds true for Washington. The state’s largest natural decrease occurred in Clallam County, where there were 265 more deaths than births.
But in King County, the state’s economic engine, it’s an entirely different story. King County capped off an impressive three-year growth streak with its biggest gain yet — about 37,000, bringing its population to 2,044,449 in 2013.
Of all 3,100-plus counties in the United States, that ranks as the fourth-largest increase in population. And among the 25 most-populous U.S. counties, King showed the second-fastest rate of growth for the one-year period.
Here in Washington, King County alone was responsible for nearly half of the state’s population growth.
Most of the nation’s counties saw greater growth through natural increase — more births than deaths — as opposed to migration.
But for King County, a magnet for people from around the country and the globe, natural increase added just one-third of its new residents.
Instead, migration fueled growth here, with about two-thirds of the county’s gains coming from people moving here. King County’s migration was split almost evenly between international and domestic migration. The county saw a net gain of about 12,500 people coming from other countries.
As for the net gain of people moving here from elsewhere in the U.S., King County pulled in 11,600 of these newbies.