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The Birmingham News
March 19, 2009

Metro Huntsville, Auburn-Opelika and Shelby County lead Alabama in growth

Two Alabama metro areas made the Census Bureau's list of the 100 fastest-growing metro areas from 2007 to 2008: Huntsville was 27th, with a population increase of 2.4 percent, and Auburn-Opelika 54th, with 1.9 percent growth.

Leading the list for largest percentage growth from July 1, 2007, to July 1, 2008, were Raleigh-Cary, N.C., at 4.3 percent, and Austin-Round Rock, Texas, 3.8 percent. There are 363 metro areas in the country.

The Census Bureau released its annual county population estimates, which include changes since the 2000 Census, late Wednesday night.

Shelby County ranked 98th on the list of fastest-growing counties so far this decade, with a population increase of 31.1 percent. Kendall County, Ill., was the fastest-growing U.S. county, with an increase of 89.6 percent.

Population growth or loss is made up of two changes: natural increase, which is the number of births minus the number of deaths; and migration, which is people moving into or out of a particular county.

The U.S. has undergone large migrations in the first eight years of the 21st century.

Many of the metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas in the Midwest and in western Pennsylvania and upstate New York have seen people move away. Their destinations appear to be metro areas in the South and Far West.

An area that includes north Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina and north Georgia is one of the hot spots. From 2007 to 2008, 47 of the 50 fastest-growing metro areas were in the South or West.

The Birmingham-Hoover metro area has grown 6.3 percent since 2000 to reach 1,117,608 people, ranking it the 48th largest U.S. metro area.

From 2000 to 2008, Jefferson County lost 26,543 people to other Alabama counties or other states, giving it the largest domestic migration loss in Alabama. Shelby County was the opposite. It had a domestic migration gain of 29,862 people, the largest in the state.

Jefferson gained 6,731 residents from foreign countries, the largest international migration in the state. Shelby gained 1,229 through international migration.

Shelby County was especially active on the baby front, with the third-largest natural increase in population in the state, lagging only Mobile and Jefferson counties.

Because of the loss in domestic migration, Jefferson County's population fell 0.4 percent from 2000 to 2008. But with its 659,503 residents, it still is Alabama's largest county, far ahead of No.2 Mobile County, with a population of 406,309.

Shelby's estimated population of 187,784 makes it the fifth-largest county in the state. It is now about 37,000 people behind No.4 Montgomery County. In the rest of the Birmingham metro area, St. Clair County grew 23.3 percent 2000-08 to reach a population of 79,837; Blount County grew 12.6 percent to 57,441; Bibb County grew 8.7 percent to 21,629; and Chilton County grew 7.2 percent to 42,444. Walker County lost 2.5 percent of its population, falling to 68,970.

Alabama's population growth in the period was 4.8 percent. The state now has 4,661,900 residents.


 

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