Office of Financial Management
Link to OFM website survey.

Home » For reporters

Washington’s population growth moderates as interstate population movement from California and other states slows


OLYMPIA—The 2008 population estimate, prepared annually by the Office of Financial Management, places the Washington population at 6,587,600 as of April 1, 2008. This represents growth of 99,600, or 1.5 percent, over the past year. It also marks a moderate but continuing deceleration in state population growth since 2006, when annual state growth approached 120,000.

Migration, primarily driven by people seeking or taking new jobs, is generally an important component of our state’s growth. While Washington’s economic performance and housing market are among the healthiest in the nation, population gains due to migration have dropped from about 81,000 in 2006, to 70,000 in 2007, and now to 59,000 for 2008, according to Theresa Lowe, the state’s chief demographer.

State population and migration continue to slow in 2008

State population and migration continue to slow in 2008 (graph)

“The severe housing contraction nationwide and slowing economic conditions appear to be limiting the mobility of the population usually associated with labor market opportunities,” Lowe said. “Many job seekers are finding it difficult to sell their homes, or to relocate to accept employment at the price of paying two mortgages for an extended period. Thus, even those states faring better in terms of housing and job opportunities are not experiencing the level of migration that would be expected under more normal circumstances.”

The annual population determinations by OFM are based on actual change in school enrollment, housing, voters, driver’s licenses and other indicator data, and are used to distribute revenues to local governments for public services and transportation. These annual figures are also used to develop and validate population forecasts which help to anticipate changes in population-driven budget expenditures.

Several indicators of population change, including driver’s licenses and housing, reflect the slowdown. Direct information showing the decline of persons moving into Washington can be obtained from out-of-state driver’s licenses that are surrendered to obtain a Washington driver’s license, less Washington licenses surrendered in other states.

Net driver’s licenses surrendered in Washington

Net driver's licenses surrendered in Washington

The economy of a populous neighbor such as California has considerable effect on Washington’s growth. Driver’s license data indicate that over time California contributes the largest share, from 40 percent to 50 percent, of the net movement into Washington from other states. The current 12-month license total of in-movers from California is 27,900 licenses. 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 to Washington, has also slowed.

California and Oregon are the leading contributors to Washington’s migration

California and Oregon are the leading contributors to Washinton's migration

Annual housing growth at the state level slowed from 47,791 in 2007 to 41,322 in 2008. The declines by county have varied, with King County showing the most stability.

Housing growth slows in the state’s largest counties

Housing growth slows in the state's largest counties

The 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 eight-year gains being increases of 147,154 in King County, 104,582 in Pierce County, 90,576 in Snohomish County and 78,962 in Clark County.

The fastest growing counties, in terms of percent change since the 2000 census, are Franklin (42.3 percent), Clark (22.9 percent), Thurston (18.3 percent) and Kittitas (18.1 percent).

The population of Washington’s cities and towns totaled 4,060,470 on April 1 of this year, a growth of more than half a million people since the 2000 federal census count. Annexations and incorporations account for about one-third of this increase. In 2006, a new statute approved a sales-tax sharing plan to reimburse cities in some counties annexing parcels containing large populations. The Lea Hill annexation added 11,448 people to the city of Auburn. Renton’s Benson Hill annexation added 16,272 people to the city.

There have been no new incorporations since the Spokane Valley incorporation in March 2003.

Detailed information on OFM’s April 1, 2008, population estimates for cities, towns and counties is available at

Contact:  Yi Zhao, Office of Financial Management, 360-902-0592