Washington state’s population growth slows to a crawl due to COVID-19

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Washington state’s steady population growth is another casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the most recent figures from the U.S. Census.

From July 1, 2020, through July 1, 2021, the Evergreen State’s population remained essentially static, ticking up a paltry 19,900 for a growth rate of 0.3%. Washington state ranked in the middle of the pack in terms of growth, coming in at 24th among the 50 states.

Washington state’s slow growth mirrored that of a U.S. population that grew by only 392,665 in the past year – or 0.1% – per the bureau’s Vintage Population Estimates released Dec. 21. That is a slower rate than any other year since the nation’s founding.

Ancillary effects of COVID-19 include reduced immigration from other countries and fewer pregnancies.

“Population growth has been slowing for years because of lower birth rates and decreasing net international migration, all while mortality rates are rising due to the aging of the nation’s population,” Kristie Wilder, a demographer in the Population Division at the Census Bureau, said in a press release. “Now, with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, this combination has resulted in a historically slow pace of growth.”

Washington’s dramatically slowed growth represents a reversal of fortune for a state that grew by nearly 15% over the past 10 years to more than 7.7 million, according to data released in April by the Census Bureau. The state’s population jump didn’t net Washington any more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, which remains at 10.

One of the more interesting figures to come out of the most recent Census data concerns Washington state’s net migration, the number of people within the country who moved to Washington state minus the number who moved away. The Census Bureau estimates a statistically insignificant net loss of 29 people in Washington between 2020 and 2021. That’s as compared to a net gain of 37,000 in 2019.

Domestic migration was a significant factor in Washington state’s steady growth before the pandemic. Washington state had the seventh-highest domestic migration total – 336,000 – from 2010 through 2019.

Even so, Washington fared better than many states. Between 2020 and 2021, 17 states and the District of Columbia fell in total population.

Texas had the largest cumulative numeric gain in the past year, and Idaho saw the fastest annual and cumulative population increase. New York reported the largest annual and cumulative population decline.

COVID-19 has claimed the lives of more than 9,800 people in Washington state. Nationwide, more than 818,000 Americans have been killed by the pandemic.

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