Sat, Aug. 17

Even during economic downturn, people still moving to Arizona

PHOENIX -- The economy may be in the tank. But people continue to move into Arizona -- at least parts of it -- in record numbers.

New figures from the U.S. Census Bureau show that Maricopa County added 89,550 people in the year ending June 30, 2008. That's a change of 2.3 percent.

Potentially more significant, the number of people living in the state's most populous county is up by more than 882,000 since the official count in 2000. And that numeric change, according to the Census Bureau, is not only the greatest of any county in the country. That difference alone is larger than the populations of six states.

As impressive as all that is, it pales in comparison -- at least by degree -- with the continued population explosion of Pinal County which is absorbing the overflow from not only Maricopa to its north but Pima County to the south. It added more than 26,000 residents in a single year, a net growth of 8.8 percent.

That is the second fastest growth rate in the nation, topped only by St. Bernard Parish in Louisiana, which is still repopulating after Hurricane Katrina.

In fact, Pinal added far more population than Pima County, not because of net gain -- births minus deaths of those living there -- but by people moving there from somewhere else: Pinal got more than 23,000 new residents that way in just one year, versus fewer than 9,600 in Pima.

Still, the new figures from the Census Bureau show that the slowing economy is having an effect: Pinal County's annual change a year earlier was 11.5 percent. But even with the slowdown, such as it is, Pinal's population is up more than 82 percent since the beginning of the decade.

The new figures do make it official that, as of last July 1, Pima County's population had topped one million. That is 1.5 percent more than the same time a year earlier, and almost 20 percent since the beginning of the decade.

But tiny Graham County posted a 4.2 percent year-over-year growth. That, like Pinal, was driven largely by migration, with nearly 1,150 people moving there.

That could have been for the more than 1,700 jobs created during the same time period.

Migration played a role in some of the changes, with five of the state's 15 counties actually losing residents to other counties or states. That was mitigated by international migration, people coming here from other countries.

Those figures, however, could be somewhat misleading: Aside from including residents who came to the United States legally or otherwise, international migration also includes the movement of members of the armed forces between this country and overseas.

That could explain relatively large changes in places like Cochise County where Fort Huachuca is located.

Figures for individual cities will be released later this year.