Clark County population reaches estimated 433,418




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Clark County’s population grew by nearly 2 percent to 433,418 between 2010 and 2011, according to an estimate released Thursday by the Census Bureau.

The estimate paints a brighter picture than the state’s Office of Financial Management, which estimated growth of 0.6 percent for 2011 and 0.76 percent growth for 2012. Census Bureau estimates trail behind that of the state. Census estimates for 2012 won’t be available until June 2013. The state agency measures from April to April, while the Census Bureau counts the calendar year. The state’s estimates for 2012 were released Monday.

The markedly different estimates are used primarily for awarding state and federal funding. The state uses its own numbers. The federal government uses data from the Census Bureau.

Washington state’s population has generally stayed put due to the sluggish economy, said the state’s chief demographer, Yi Zhao.

“No one is growing that fast (in the state) except the Tri-Cities,” Zhao said. “We hardly have any new housing starts.”

The local rate of growth in 2011 was higher than the state as a whole, which showed a 1.6 percent increase, according to the census estimates. It also was higher than the nation’s 1.3 percent.

Clark County’s growth in the state 2012 estimates was about the same as the state’s, which was 0.73 percent.

Clark County’s 2012 growth lagged behind eight other Washington counties.

Scott Bailey, regional economist for the Washington Employment Security Department, said state estimates for 2012 indicate the county’s population has flat-lined. Births and deaths would account for 0.76 percent population growth. Bailey said in-migration and out-migration in the county is about equal.

Though unemployment rates have decreased, new jobs have not been numerous enough to stimulate a significant population boom. Other population indicators such as new housing and school enrollment also are modest, Zhao said.

Clark County has a history of seesawing population numbers, tied largely to the economy, Zhao said.

“Clark County goes up and down more than other counties because it’s impacted by Portland’s economy,” she said. “Portland will turn around, and Clark will absorb some of the people who work in Portland.”

An economic center like Portland usually needs to recover fully before any significant population ripples show up in suburbs, such as Clark County, she said.

The census estimates are calculated annually using numbers from the most recent census in 2010 and information from birth and death certificates, IRS tax returns, Medicare enrollment forms, number of housing units and occupancy rates.

Clark County numbered 425,363 residents in the 2010 census.