Census report shows bust in Az economy, population growth
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Census report shows bust in Az economy, population growth

Maricopa County has added more people – almost a million – than any other U.S. county in the past decade, but that growth has slowed substantially since the economy soured, according Census Bureau estimates released Monday.

Pima County, Arizona's second-largest, saw its annual growth rate slide to less than 1 percent and less than 10,000 new residents each year from July 2008 to July 2010. It had an estimated population of 1.03 million.

Population data for all counties in the U.S. showed that Maricopa County added 966,200 residents, while Pinal County led the nation with a growth rate of 106 percent from July 2000 to July 2010.

The estimates aren't based on results of the 2010 Census but are a good estimate of what can be expected, said Jim Rounds, senior vice president and senior economist for Elliott D. Pollack and Co.

"We've grown substantially in the middle part of the decade with the housing boom, and it has slowed down substantially since then," he said.

Maricopa County's growth, for example, peaked with 144,000 new residents and a growth rate of 4.12 percent from July 2004 to July 2005. It added about 44,000 residents from July 2009 to July 2010, just over 1 percent, and had an estimated population of 4.06 million.

Pinal County added 190,600 residents during the period, according to the estimates. After its annual growth rate peaked at nearly 12 percent from July 2006 to July 2007, Pinal's percentage growth dipped before rebounding to 9.16 percent from July 2009 to July 2010, leaving the county with an estimated 371,680 residents.

Arizona's growth rate of 29.23 percent from 2000 to 2010 ranked behind only Nevada's 31.54 percent, while the data suggested that the state added 1.51 million residents, placing it behind Texas, California, Florida and Georgia in raw numbers. Arizona population stood at 6.7 million in July 2010, according to the estimates.

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Tom Rex, the associate director of the Center for Competitiveness and Prosperity Research at Arizona State University, said the economic downturn and Arizona's anti-illegal immigration laws have contributed to the state's slowed growth. But just how much each county is affected by each factor varies across the state, he said.

"Counties with a higher Hispanic population, such as Maricopa County, are more likely to experience a decrease in population growth because of the new anti-illegal immigration laws over other counties, like Mohave County, which have less Hispanics," Rex said.

Rounds said he hopes growth will pick up again and help with the state's economic recovery.

"Economic growth can happen without the level of population growth, but there is no doubt that we do need some growth that will help pull us out of the current economic situation we've been in," he said.

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Heather Billings/Cronkite News Service

Top 10 counties in the U.S. in population growth between 2000-2010.

Population growth, July 2000-July 2010

  • Maricopa: 966,182, 31.19 percent
  • Pinal: 190,609, 105.27 percent
  • Pima: 178,717, 21.06 percent
  • Yavapai: 46,359, 27.47 percent
  • Mohave: 38,158, 24.44 percent
  • Yuma: 37,981, 23.64 percent
  • Navajo: 15,512, 15.85 percent
  • Coconino: 14,243, 12.2 percent
  • Cochise: 12,189, 10.32 percent
  • Santa Cruz: 5,213, 13.54 percent
  • Graham: 3,110, 9.29 percent
  • Apache: 2.49 percent, 1,731 percent
  • Gila: 911, 1.78 percent
  • La Paz: 191, 0.98 percent
  • Greenlee: Loss of 783, -9.21 percent
  • Source: U.S. Census Bureau estimates