Candidate Engagement

New Census Figures Are Out — And The Fastest Growing State Is Not Where You’d Expect

While the news is often populated with figures from the largest US cities and industries (we’re looking at you New York and Los Angeles!), you might be surprised to learn where the fastest growth has been this past year.

In the latest release from the U.S. Census Bureau, national and state population estimates put Utah as the nation’s fastest-growing state over the last year, with a population increase of two percent, or 3.1 million people.

And as we saw with last year’s US election, it certainly pays to be looking at some of the less observed states – in the coming years, they’re likely to make much more of an impact on the economy and jobs growth.

Chief of the Census Population Estimates Branch, Ben Bolender says in the past year states in the South and West continued to lead in population growth.

“In 2016, 37.9 percent of the nation’s population lived in the South and 23.7 percent lived in the West.”

Meanwhile, eight states, including New York, Illinois, and Pennsylvania, have lost population.



Brian Cannon is director of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies at Brigham Young University in Utah.

He says it’s a trend to move where the cost of living tends to be lower, and where land and taxes are less expensive.

“I think it’s kind of a continuation of what occurred back in the 1970s and 80s when people were talking about the Sun Belt migration, with manufacturers and companies leaving the Northeast and the upper Midwest and moving south into places like Texas and Arizona and California.”

Professor Cannon says he’s not surprised at Utah’s position at number one given the state’s historically robust high birth rates. However, he cites the state’s computer technologies and high-tech industry as the key drivers attracting people.

“Adobe, for instance, have also recently established a significant presence here in Utah and that’s partly attributable to the fact the state has very aggressively gone after companies like eBay and Adobe and offered them considerable tax breaks as an incentive to locate facilities here in the Beehive State.”


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But while technology as an industry continues to show steady growth, Professor Cannon says it will be interesting to see how the new Trump administration affects the various industries.

“Some of the trade policies and barriers that are proposed could affect the high-tech sector adversely, actually. That might benefit some traditional heavy manufacturing industries such as the automotive industry or the mining industry in Utah, particularly automotive I guess, but those same types of barriers could result in retaliatory policies being adopted by other nations,” he said.

Professor Cannon also warned that while Utah and the US high-tech sectors have traditionally done well with Asian nations, new policies could stifle trade.

“If the United States erects significant trade barriers and retaliatory actions are forthcoming from other nations, that could adversely affect the high-tech sector and their ability to market their products abroad.”