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Washington Continues to Show Strong Population Growth


OLYMPIA – The 2007 population estimate, prepared annually by the Office of Financial Management (OFM), places the Washington population at 6,488,000 as of April 1.  This represents a growth of 112,400, or 1.8 percent, over last year. 

OFM annually determines population based on actual change in enrollment, housing, voters, drivers, and other indicators.  These data track and validate population forecasts issued by OFM to anticipate forthcoming adjustments in population-driven budget expenditures.  These annual figures are also used in program administration and revenue distributions to local governments.

“About two- thirds of the state population growth is from persons moving to Washington —attracted by the state’s good employment climate,” said Theresa Lowe, the state’s chief demographer.  Interstate population movement is primarily driven by people seeking or taking new jobs.  The level of migration to Washington largely depends on the relative performance of Washington’s economy versus the economy in nearby states and in the nation as a whole. 

Washington's economy is still strong and clearly outperforming the nation's economy, but the margin of difference is smaller than it was during 2004-2006.  As a result, migration to our state and population growth has slowed.

State population and migration gains moderate a bit in 2007

State population and migration gains moderate a bit in 2007

Several indicators of population change, including drivers’ licenses and housing, reflect the slowdown.  The amount of change in the number of persons moving into Washington can be directly determined by comparing the number of out-of-state licenses that are surrendered to obtain a Washington license versus the number of Washington licenses surrendered in other states.

Net drivers’ licenses surrendered in Washington

Net drivers' licenses surrendered in Washington

The economy of such a populous neighbor as California has considerable effect on Washington’s growth.  Drivers’ license data indicate that California contributes the largest share, from 40 to 50 percent, of the net movement into Washington from other states.  The current 12-month license total of individuals moving from California is 34,000.  This compares to 38,000 in 2006 and a peak of about 40,000 licenses from California in the early 1990s.  Movement from Oregon, the second largest contributor of migrants into Washington, has also slowed.

California and Oregon are the leading contributors to elevated migration

California and Oregon are the leading contributors to elevated migration.

Annual housing growth at the state level slowed from 51,000 in 2006 to 47,700 in 2007.  Due to a marked increase in multi-unit structures, King County was one of the few counties statewide to show an increase in housing growth in 2007.

Housing growth slows in the large Puget Sound Counties

Housing growth slows in the large Puget Sound Counties.

“As always, continued population growth in Washington depends on how our employment opportunities stack up against what other states have to offer,” Lowe said.  “Washington still appears to be in a good position to add nearly one million people over the present decade and reach 6.8 million by 2010.”

OFM’s annual population determinations provide information on growth statewide.  The majority of growth since 2000 (using 2000 U.S. Census data as a baseline) remains concentrated in Western Washington, with the largest seven-year gains being increases of 124,254 in King County, 89,682 in Pierce County, 80,276 in Snohomish County, and 69,762 Clark County.

The fastest growing counties, in terms of percent change since the 2000 Census are Franklin County (36.6 percent), Clark County (20.2 percent), Kittitas County (14.8 percent), and Thurston County (14.8 percent).

The population of Washington’s cities and towns totaled 3,974,195 on April 1 of this year, up nearly half a million people 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.

OFM’s release of 2007 populations should not be confused with the 2006 populations now being released by the federal Bureau of the Census.  The Bureau’s population figures are for a year earlier, use a July 1 estimate date, and are developed by somewhat different demographic techniques.

Detailed information on the April 1, 2007, population estimates for cities, towns and counties may be found on the Office of Financial Management web page.