Apr 12, 2023 - News

King County's population is growing again

Change in Washington population, 2020 to 2022
Data: U.S. Census; Map: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

More people moved into King County than left last year, reversing much of the population loss seen early in the pandemic, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

Why it matters: In 2021, King County saw its first decline in population in nearly half a century, according to Census Bureau estimates. But the new figures indicate that this is not becoming a pattern.

Details: King County's population ticked up by an estimated 13,800 people between July 2021 and July 2022, keeping its total population around 2.3 million residents.

Yes, but: Those gains didn't quite offset King County's estimated population decline in 2021, which the Census Bureau pegged at a loss of roughly 21,000 people.

  • Last year, King County's estimated population was still about 7,300 below where it was in 2020, for an overall decline of 0.32% over two years.

Zoom in: The county's recent growth was fueled mainly by people moving to King County from international locations, per the Census Bureau.

  • The number of people who left King County for somewhere else in the U.S. still exceeded the number of people moving here from other U.S. counties, the federal agency said.

Between the lines: Not all demographers agree with the Census Bureau's assessment that King County has lost population since 2020.

  • The state Office of Financial Management, which does its own calculations of city and county population changes each year, concluded that King County gained people in 2021 and again in 2022, based largely on the number of housing units added countywide.
  • According to the state agency, King County added roughly 32,000 housing units between 2020 and 2022.
  • "It's hard for me to look at that and think we are losing population" in King County, state demographer Mike Mohrman told Axios last week.

The bottom line: Whichever dataset you use, it doesn't appear King County is seeing a mass exodus of residents, particularly as we move away from the height of the pandemic.

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