Hard-hit Sun Belt starting to bounce back
ORLANDO, Fla. – March 14, 2013 – After years of record foreclosures and job losses, the Sun Belt is recovering some of its lost appeal as the population begins to grow again in counties from Florida to Arizona.
At the same time, new ways to tap the nation’s rich supply of natural resources – from oil to gold – continue to create boom towns in some remote Western counties and parts of the Great Plains that have suffered decades of population declines.
Census county population estimates out today for July 1, 2012, show a nation in flux after a grueling economic downturn. Counties such as Arizona’s Maricopa (Phoenix), Nevada’s Clark (Las Vegas) and Florida’s Orange (Orlando) all show population gains that are once again outpacing national growth.
“Even the deepest recession since the Great Depression cannot permanently disrupt the decades-long trend of growth in the South and West,” says Robert Lang, professor of urban affairs at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. “Now that we’re several years past the recession, things are slowly getting back to where they were.”
Some of the fastest recent gains are in or near the Great Plains and Texas – regions benefiting from oil and gas drilling and processing. Texas had 11 of the 50 fastest-growing counties. In Elko, Nev., one of the fastest-growing small urban areas, gold mining is the lure.
Williams, N.D., was the fastest growing among counties with more than 10,000 people. Williston, its main city, and surrounding areas gained 9.3 percent in one year.
“Parts of the country that were given up for dead end up producing new life,” Lang says. “Technology keeps changing, so our ability to access resources changes. America’s mineral and energy abundance is the gift that keeps on giving.”
Despite glimmers of growth and rebound, the recession’s impact on birthrates is being felt in more corners of the country. Natural decrease (when deaths outnumber births) occurred in a record 1,135 counties, or more than a third, according to Kenneth Johnson, senior demographer at the University of New Hampshire’s Carsey Institute. For the first time, two states had more deaths than births: Maine and West Virginia.
As recently as 2009, this scenario happened in just 880 counties.
Natural decreases are happening more often because there are fewer births, Johnson’s analysis shows – 4 million last year nationwide compared with a record 4.3 million before the recession.
“It is no longer an isolated phenomenon,” Johnson says. “Once natural decrease begins in a county, it is likely to recur. …%
re posted by Chris Ryder