A map of the Atlanta Regional Commission's definition of the core metro area. (Image by ARC)

By John Ruch

The population of metro Atlanta’s 11-county core is nearly 5.1 million, showing continued growth that ticked up since the pandemic, according to the latest estimate by the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC).

The region netted an additional 64,940 people between April 2021 and April 2022, the ARC estimated. Atlanta, whose estimated population surpassed 500,000 last year, gained more than 5,000 more people.

The regional population growth rate was 1.3 percent, up slightly from 2020-2021, producing an April 2022 total of 5,091,644. The long-term trend is slower growth than an early 2000s boom, but remains steady.

“We are clearly recovering from the initial shock of the pandemic in 2020,” said ARC Executive Director Anna Roach in a press release. “These population gains are encouraging, and they are a testament to the quality of life metro Atlanta offers. As we look to the future, we must continue to work on housing affordability, access to transit, transportation infrastructure, and other critical issues so that we foster a region where everyone thrives.”

The ARC is an intergovernmental planning agency representing the City of Atlanta and the metro counties of Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Henry and Rockdale. Its data covers those areas. The U.S. Census uses a larger, 29-county definition of Atlanta’s metro area with a population estimated to be over 6 million.

The ARC’s core region remains a growth hot spot. Forty years ago, its population was around 1.9 million. By 2000, it was over 3.5 million. Last year, the population hit the 5 million mark.

Fulton remains the most populous county with around 1.09 million, and Rockdale the least with just under 95,000.

In the 12 months between April 2021 and April 2022, the county with the biggest growth in population was Gwinnett with 13,460. Henry County had the biggest growth rate increase at 2.7 percent. Rockdale County had the smallest growth in both population and rate, at 580 people and 0.6 percent.

In that period, Atlanta and all 11 counties had population growth increases, but at differing rates. The rates trended upward year-over-year for Atlanta, Cherokee, Cobb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton and Henry. DeKalb and Gwinnett’s rates were flat, while the others declined.

Some economic indicators are up as well, the ARC said, citing job growth that outpaced the U.S. average. Home construction is increasing, the ARC reported, with 27,164 new residential permits issued in the region in 2021, an increase of more than 4,500 over the 2020 calendar year. “Permit activity, however, remains below pre-pandemic, and far below pre-recession, levels,” the ARC added in the press release.

The following are the ARC’s April 2022 population estimate breakdowns by county:

  • Cherokee: 279,840
  • Clayton: 302,285
  • Cobb: 779,249
  • DeKalb: 775,022
  • Douglas: 149,297
  • Fayette: 122,684
  • Forsyth: 265,033
  • Fulton: 1,087,170
  • Gwinnett: 983,702
  • Henry: 252,502
  • Rockdale: 94,860
  • City of Atlanta: 507,015 (40,690 in DeKalb and 466,325 in Fulton)

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