A population analysis by the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah suggests that the coronavirus pandemic has shifted Utah’s population grown from natural increase to net migration.

LOGAN – During the height of the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, demographers were predicting that COVID-19 deaths would reverse Utah’s traditional population growth trends.

Based on analysis of recent population statistics, however, the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah says that Utah’s population is still growing, albeit now due more to net migration rather than natural increase.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Utah was the fastest growing state in the nation by an average annual rate of 18.4 percent from 2010 to 2020.

Historically, that growth has been largely due to natural increase as a result of the birth rate. But in 2021, new citizens moving to Utah represented nearly 60 percent of the state’s population increase.

Natural increase is the number of births minus the number of deaths recorded statewide. During the past decade, Utah’s total fertility rate declined from 2.25 (the highest birth rate in the nation) to below replacement level in 2019. That falling fertility rate was further complicated by the state’s death rate spiking to 15 percent during the pandemic (e.g. 2,800 COVID-19 victims.)

The Gardner Institute says that Utah’s population grew from 3,284,823 to 3,343,552, a net increase 58,729, in the past year. But 34,858 of those new residents (59 percent) were workers and their families, likely migrating to Utah to take advantage of the state’s red-hot economy.

Population statistics in the Bear River Health District mirrored those statewide trends.

Cache County is now the fifth fastest growing county in the state. The county’s population is 137,255, up from 133,743 a year earlier. That’s an increase of 3,513 for a growth rate of 2.63 percent. A total of 1,400 of those new residents are the result of natural increase (2,069 births and 669 deaths). Another 2,113 new residents were net migrants, making up 60 percent of the new population growth.

Population growth in Box Elder County was similar, but more so. Box Elder’s population jumped by 1,334 residents, to 59,220 in 2021 from 57,886 a year earlier. That includes 299 new residents as a result of natural increase and 1,035 new arrivals (78 percent).

Rich County’s population increased by 43 residents in the past year, up to 2,559 from 2,517 a year previously. That represents 19 new residents from natural increase and 25 from net migration (56 percent).

The four counties that are growing faster than Cache County are Iron County (6.2 percent), Tooele County (4.1 percent), Washington County (4.0 percent) and Utah County (2.9 percent).

But about 90 percent of Iron County’s population growth can be attributed to net migration, as can 94 percent of Washington County’s growth and 80 percent of the growth in Tooele County.

The population has increased in Utah County by nearly 20,000 new residents and 55 percent of them are the result of new migration.

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