Nothing screams economic activity like population growth because, as the saying goes, people go where the action is. And if that’s the case, North Dakota is getting a little hoarse because it’s getting more crowded.
The U.S. Census Bureau recently published 2011 population estimates for states and their largest population centers. Among the Ninth District’s 15 metropolitan areas, Sioux Falls, S.D., and Bismarck, N.D., led the population pack with a 1.4 percent increase last year. In fact, every district metro saw at least slight growth, save for Grand Forks, which dropped one-half a percentage point (see Table 1).
The Census is also gathering and publishing more data on smaller, so-called micropolitan regions, of which there are 41 scattered across the Ninth District. There was wide variation in population growth among these regions (see Table 2), and total growth for micro regions was slower than for district metros (0.6 percent versus 0.9 percent, respectively). Roughly one-quarter (10) of micro regions saw population declines. But six micro regions saw stronger growth than the top metro areas. Half of them are in western North Dakota, where Minot and Dickinson grew by 3 percent or more, and Williston grew an astounding 8 percent last year.
Migration and demographics play important roles in population change, as people move into and out of communities, while the existing population experiences both births and deaths. Unfortunately, new population statistics don’t tell us how many of each occurred in various communities. Communities in Ninth District states harbor fairly similar demographics in terms of age and fertility rates that would make local population change from births and deaths reasonably consistent and predictable in a given year.
Migration is likely the biggest factor in population performance, particularly among outliers. In western North Dakota, it’s clear people are migrating to the oil patch for jobs—a topic covered in depth in the April fedgazette online later this month.