Census estimates show sharp drop in Arizona’s population growth
Population growth in Arizona has slowed dramatically since the housing downturn and recession hit, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates released Tuesday.
Arizona's population grew by around 95,000 people in 2009, fewer than half the number it added in 2005 and 2006, according to the estimates.
The news comes as the Census Bureau begins its decennial count of the U.S. population that will determine how much political representation Arizona gets in Washington and how much federal money the state receives.
William Keating, an associate professor with Arizona State University's School of Government, Politics and Global Studies, said it's too soon to tell whether the numbers foreshadow bad news when it comes to more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. That depends on what happens in other states, he said.
"Arizona is on track for the ninth seat; the real issue is will we get a 10th, which is dependent on the census numbers," Keating said.
The Census Bureau derived net population growth estimates from births and deaths and people moving into and out of the state. The biggest change in 2009 was a drop-off in people moving to Arizona from within the U.S., according to its data.
The slowing growth was most pronounced in Maricopa County, which for the first time in the decade didn't have the nation's largest increase in residents. It had a net population increase of about 65,000, down from a peak of about 145,000 in 2005, and trailed Texas' Harris County, which includes Houston, and Los Angeles County.
The Phoenix metropolitan area's net population growth was estimated at around 77,000 in 2009, down from a peak of about 162,000 in 2006, when it led the nation. The Phoenix area's growth trailed the Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Washington and Atlanta metropolitan areas.
Marshall Vest, an economist with the University of Arizona's Eller College of Management, said a lack of jobs in the state and a nationwide slowdown in home sales and available financing have contributed to the slowing growth.
"It's been a very severe recession unlike anything we have seen here," he said.
Vest said Arizona's economy does appear to be improving, though many growth-related industries won't have as many jobs as before the recession.
Garrick Taylor, director of communications for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the state has relied too heavily on commercial and residential construction and needs to do a better job of encouraging sustainable economic growth. Legislation creating a better environment for businesses would promote jobs and a more stable economy, he said.
"We need to put more tools in Arizona's economic toolbox to promote economic diversity," Taylor said.