By the numbers: A closer look at North Carolina’s population growth

May 20. By NC Policy Watch. After unveiling the official counts of state populations, the U.S. Census Bureau released a new round of county and metro-level population estimates for 2020 ahead of detailed counts of the 2020 Census later this fall.  

The estimates are calculated by tracking births, deaths and migration on top of the 2010 Census count baseline. The figures serve as a reference point for how many people reside in each county. Although the statewide official count of 10,439,388 individuals fell short of the 10,600,823 estimate, it came extremely close.  

Here are some highlights from the 2020 population estimates. 

North Carolina: one of the nation’s top growing states

10,600,823 — estimated North Carolina resident population in 2020 

11.2% — North Carolina’s estimated ten-year population growth rate since 2010 — this places the state as the 11th fastest growing among 50 states and the District of Columbia

99,439 — population growth between July 2019 and June 2020, the fourth largest growth nationally, after Texas, Florida and Arizona

110,026 — population growth for Fiscal Year 2019

118,855 — number of births statewide in FY 2020, a rate of 11.26%, slightly down from 11.4% in FY 2019

102,921 — number of deaths statewide in FY 2020, a death rate of 9.75%, up from 9.11% a year ago

15,934 — population added because of natural increase in North Carolina in FY 2020, which equals births minus death (this ranked 12th nationally)

23,948 — population added in FY 2019 (the 2020 decline was due to an increase in new deaths and a decrease in new births

More counties have negative natural increases in 2020 

1,132,271 — number of Wake County residents estimated in 2020. Wake overtakes Mecklenburg (1,128,945) for the first time as the most populous county, thanks mainly to net migration. However, the sheer number of net migration in FY 2020 — 13,489 — is still lower than a year ago, for the most part due to a decrease in net international migration. 

-798 — Craven County’s estimated population loss in 2020 from a year ago, the county with the largest population loss — in 2019, Robeson lost about 1,450

69 — counties estimated to have positive population growth in FY 2020 from a year ago.

31  counties with a decline

26 — number of counties with a positive natural increase between July 2019 and June 2020, meaning the births outnumbered deaths  

74 — number of counties with a negative natural increase, meaning the deaths outpaced births between July 2019 and June 2020 

58 — number of counties with a positive population growth overall between 2010 and 2020

42 —number estimated to have fewer residents than in 2010 

38% — decennial growth rate of Brunswick County population estimated between 2010 and 2020 — the highest among all counties, followed by Johnson (28%) and Wake (25%)

13.6% — rate of decrease in Northampton County population between 2010 and 2020, the largest decrease statewide

Migration a steady source of population growth 

83,616 — number of residents gained from migration, or the margin of people moving in minus those who moved out in 2020 — UNC-CH’s Carolina Population Center described migration as “the engine of North Carolina growth for the past 30 years”

4th — where North Carolina ranks nationally (the number, however, is down from 86,060 a year ago)

13,387 — the number for net international migration (the number of new North Carolina residents who immigrated from overseas vs. the number who moved overseas) during the period of July 2019 to June 2020 

70,229 — population added because of migration, meaning 70,229 more new North Carolina residents moved from other states than who moved to other states during the period of July 2019 to June 2020 

27 — number of counties where more residents moved out than new residents moving in FY 2020 

73 — number of counties that gained positive net migration in FY 2020 

35,367 — The Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia metropolitan area gained more residents from migration than any other metro or county (the number was 33,307 in FY 2019) 

Source: U.S. Census Bureau


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