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County population declines as many localities in Virginia experience natural decrease

Population growth in Virginia slowed last year as fewer people moved to the state, but the commonwealth still outpaced the nation, according to the most recent official state population estimates developed by demographers from the University of Virginia’s Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.

The University of Virginia Weldon Cooper Center released the 2013 annual official population estimates for Virginia and its localities Wednesday.

Virginia’s population grew between 2012 and 2013 by less than 1 percent, or 74,531 people, to increase the state population to nearly 8.3 million. 

While growth last year was the slowest in Virginia since before the recession, the commonwealth still grew faster than the nation, which grew by 0.7 percent. 

Compared to other states, Virginia posted the 14th-highest growth rate and the seventh-largest numerical population gains.

While the overall state population grew, Halifax County’s population showed a slight decline decreasing by 0.5 percent. The April 1, 2010 census showed a population of 36,241, and the estimated July 1, 2013 population was 36,075, representing a decrease of 167. 

Pittsylvania County and Amelia County also showed an estimated decrease of 0.5 percent. The population in Pittsylvania County from 2010 to the estimated 2013 population decreased from 63,506 to 63,137, a decrease of 339. In Amelia County, there was an estimated decrease from 12,690 to 12,759, a decrease of 69. 

It was estimated that Charlotte County showed an even greater decrease with the population dropping 0.7 percent. From the 2010 census to the estimated 2013 population, there was a decrease from 12,586 to 12,497, a decrease of 89. 

Mecklenburg County showed a greater decrease as well. From 2010 to 2013, there was an estimated decrease of 2.3 percent with the population decreasing from 32,727 to 31,980. 

Within Virginia, the large population gains were more than ever concentrated in urban localities, particularly in Northern Virginia. 

“Loudoun, Fairfax, Prince William and Arlington counties and the city of Alexandria continue to experience considerable growth,” said Hamilton Lombard, the researcher who prepared the estimates. “Together they accounted for more than half of the growth in the commonwealth since 2010, compared to 44 percent between 2000 and 2010.”

Since 2010, Loudon County estimated an increase in population of 11.4 percent, gaining 35,658 people. Fairfax County trailed behind them with an estimated increase of 3.3 percent, gaining 35,171 people totaling a population of 1,116,897. 

Prince William County showed an estimated gain of 29,256 people, an increase of 7.3 percent, and Arlington County showed an estimated gain of 19,519 people, an increase of 9.4 percent. 

While Fredericksburg is the fastest-growing locality since 2010, increasing by more than 15 percent, most urban localities in Virginia also experienced above-average growth, representing a change from the previous decade. 

Between 2000 and 2010, urban localities grew much more slowly than suburban localities in Virginia; in contrast, during the past four years, many urban areas are among Virginia’s fastest-growing localities, with Arlington, Fredericksburg, Harrisonburg, Radford and Richmond among the cities growing at a rate faster than the state since 2010. 

“Due to population aging and lower birth rates, almost half or 66 of Virginia’s localities experienced natural decrease with more deaths than births reported between 2010 and 2013,” Qian Cai, director of the Demographics Research Group, said. “While many localities gained sufficient population through migration to compensate for these losses, 33 localities in Virginia had a net overall loss in population.” 

Most localities that lost population or experienced natural decrease were located outside of the so-called “urban crescent,” which stretches from Hampton Roads to Richmond and up the Interstate 95 corridor to Northern Virginia. 

In Southwest Virginia, all seven coal-producing counties declined in population between 2012 and 2013.  

The Cooper Center’s population estimates, prepared annually, are the official figures for the commonwealth of Virginia. The estimates are based on changes since 2010 in housing stock, school enrollment, births, deaths and drivers’ license issuances. They are used by state and local government agencies in revenue sharing, funding allocations, planning and budgeting.