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Since the Census, New Patterns of Metro and Micro Growth

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Except for the year after the decennial census, the Census Bureau annually publishes population estimates for all metropolitan and micropolitan statistical areas. Today, we released the first such estimates since the 2010 Census and they provide us with the first measure of how such areas have grown since Census Day, April 1, 2010. These estimates pertain to July 1, 2011.

A metro area contains a core urban area of 50,000 or more population, and a micro area contains an urban core of at least 10,000 (but less than 50,000) population. Each metro or micro area consists of one or more counties and includes the counties containing the core urban area, as well as any adjacent counties that have a high degree of social and economic integration (as measured by commuting to work) with the urban core.

The estimates released today show patterns of growth around the country that are considerably different from those we saw between the 2000 and 2010 censuses. Fewer than half ─ 24 ─ of the 50 fastest-growing metro areas between 2010 and 2011 were also among the 50 fastest-growing between censuses.

Some metro areas showed dramatic changes: Palm Coast, Fla., was the fastest-growing area between 2000 and 2010, but fell to 55th place between 2010 and 2011. Similarly, Las Vegas, the third fastest-growing area between 2000 and 2010, fell to 151st place. Some areas showed less change: St. George, Utah, the second fastest-growing area between 2000 and 2010, dropped only to 11th place.

Conversely, New Orleans, which experienced the greatest percentage loss between the 2000 and the 2010 censuses, was the 35th fastest-growing metro between 2010 and 2011. Besides New Orleans, there were nine other metro areas that were not among the 100 fastest growing from 2000 to 2010 but were among the top 50 from 2010 to 2011: Hinesville-Fort Stewart, Ga.; Columbus, Ga.-Ala.; Odessa, Texas; Fayetteville, N.C.; Oklahoma City; Bismarck, N.D.; Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, Fla.; Gulfport-Biloxi, Miss.; and Hattiesburg, Miss.

As with metro areas, new patterns of growth have emerged with micro areas. The fastest-growing micro area between 2010 and 2011 was Williston, N.D., which grew by 8.8 percent. Two other North Dakota micro areas, Dickinson (fourth) and Minot (eighth), also were among the 10 fastest growing. All in all, New Mexico contained the largest number of micro areas among the 50 fastest growing (six): Gallup (11th), Portales (12th), Alamogordo (13th), Clovis (15th); Grants (34th) and Los Alamos (42nd).  None of these nine North Dakota and New Mexico micros were among the 50 fastest growing between 2000 and 2010.

These estimates are the first for metro and micro areas to be based on the 2010 Census. The Census Bureau uses births, deaths, administrative records and survey data to develop them. Released along with the metro and micro area numbers were comparable estimates for counties. In the coming months, we will publish estimates of the total population of incorporated places, as well as national, state and county population estimates by age, sex, race and Hispanic origin.

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