By David Pendered
The ARC’s new regional population report, issued today, reveals one stunning statistic amidst the otherwise expected figures about the region’s sluggish growth rate in the post-recession era.
Atlanta is the only one of the 12 geographic areas cited in the report that had more people moving in each of the past two years than had moved in during an average year during the boom times of 1990 to 2010.
That statement needs to be qualified immediately: Atlanta’s population number may change, depending on the outcome of the city’s appeal of the 2010 Census. But for now, Atlanta is in a statistically sunny place.
This growth rate for the city may be viewed as statistically insignificant. But it is notable in the current economy, when growth rates for metropolises across the country have dwindled.
The 10-county area tracked by the ARC posted a total gain of about 37,200 individuals from April 1, 2011 to April 1, 2012. The numbers are unofficial until the ARC board adopts them in a vote scheduled for Aug. 22.
Atlanta’s population grew by an annual average of 799 a year from 2010 to 2012. That figure compares to an average annual increase of 240 individuals during the period of 1990 to 2010, according to the figures released by the Atlanta Regional Commission.
In terms of overall numbers, Gwinnett County still is the region’s giant when it comes to population growth.
Gwinnett added an average of 8,890 individuals a year from 2010 to 2012. That’s down from the annual average of 22,441 new residents a year during the 1990 to 2010 era.
Fulton County came in second to Gwinnett in terms of new residents. The average annual growth rate was 7,760 from 2010 to 2012, down from an annual average of 12,489 from 1990 to 2010.
Cobb County came in third in the region. Cobb added 5,711 from 2010 to 2012, down from an annual average of 11,734 from 1990 to 2010.
In releasing the report, the ARC focused on the region’s story. The ARC noted that the growth rate is higher than the previous year, but remains far below growth rates typical of the region’s recent history. And, the ARC’s executive director added, the break in the pace of growth provides some opportunities.
“While this growth is certainly slower than what we became accustomed to in the ‘90s and 2000s, this pace is laudable in the face of the economic pressures we face,” Doug Hooker, ARC executive director, said in a prepared statement. “This blip in our growth pattern allows the region and our local governments to catch our collective breaths and prepare for the return of more typical growth.”
Mike Alexander, the ARC’s chief of research, interpreted the figures in terms of the housing market.
“People just don’t move as much when the economy is slow,” Alexander said in the statement. “And, considering that this recession started in the housing market and crippled that industry, property values have declined. That means fewer people are able to sell their homes and move to a different metro area.”