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More people move to Washington as the economy continues to strengthen


OLYMPIA – Washington's population increased an estimated 120,000 over the last year, largely due to people lured here by the state’s bright employment climate, Theresa Lowe, the state’s chief demographer, said Thursday.

The 2006 population estimate, prepared annually by the Office of Financial Management (OFM), places the Washington population at 6,375,600 as of April 1.  OFM always forecasts population change to anticipate forthcoming changes in population-driven budget expenditures.  But, it is these annual population determinations—based on actual change in enrollment, housing, voters, drivers, and other indicator data—that validate the forecast expectations, Lowe said.  These annual figures are also used in program administration and revenue distributions to local governments.

Population growth based on migration is primarily driven by people seeking or taking new jobs in Washington.  Washington’s current growth tracks well with the state’s economic recovery, which started with improved employment figures in June 2003, and continues to outpace economic gains in nearby states and the nation as a whole.  Washington added 77,000 jobs in 2005, a growth rate of 2.8 percent and is on track to add 95,000 jobs in 2006, an increase of 3.4 percent.  As Washington’s economy improved, annual migration climbed from only 22,000 in 2003, to 51,000 in 2005, and 81,000 in 2006.  Annual population growth increased from less than one percent in 2003 to nearly two percent by 2006.

State migration gains nearing historical peaks

State migration gains nearing historical peaks

Direct information showing the increase of person moving into Washington can be obtained by tracking out-of-state licenses that are surrendered to obtain a Washington license—less Washington licenses surrendered in other states.

Net drivers’ licenses surrendered in Washington

Net drivers' license surrendered in Washington

Drivers’ license data also show that California contributes the largest share, about 40 to 50 percent, of the net movement into Washington from other states.  Current numbers of licenses surrendered from California—a 12-month total of 38,000 licenses—compares to a peak of about 40,000 licenses from California in the early 1990s.  The economy of such a large and populous neighbor as California has considerable effect on Washington’s growth.

California and Oregon are the leading contributors to elevated migration

California and Oregon are the leading contributors to elevated migration

“As always, continued growth depends on how Washington’s employment opportunities stack up against what other states have to offer,” Lowe said.

Current employment forecasts for California and the U. S. show Washington is in a good position to draw large numbers of newcomers.  Total employment in Washington has been growing twice as fast as the national average.  Aerospace employment in the state gained 12,000 jobs over the past two years and is expected to add an additional 7,000 through 2008.  If state growth remains strong, Washington should increase by 1 million people over the present decade and reach 6.8 million by 2010.

OFM’s annual population determinations provide information on growth statewide.  The Census 2000 population counts mark the baseline for tracking a new decade of population change for the state’s cities and counties.  The majority of growth since 2000 remains concentrated in Western Washington, with the largest six-year gains being increases of 98,254 in King County, 72,682 in Pierce County, 65,776 in Snohomish County and 58,262 in Clark County.

The fastest growing counties, in terms of percent change since the 2000 Census, are Franklin County (30.1 percent), Clark County (16.9 percent), Benton County (12.7 percent), and Kittitas County (12.1 percent).

The population of Washington’s cities and towns totaled 3,901,886 on April 1 this year, up about 382,336 since the 2000 federal census count.  Annexations and incorporations account for about one-third of this increase.  There have been no new incorporations since the Spokane Valley incorporation in March 2003.

Detailed information on the April 1, 2006, population estimates for cities, towns and counties may be found on the Office of Financial Management web page.