St. George leads all U.S. metro areas in population growth

SALT LAKE CITY — New data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows Utah’s counties with the largest growth in the nation.

“The patterns we’ve observed in domestic migration shifted in 2021,” said Dr. Christine Hartley, assistant division chief for estimates and projections in the Census Bureau’s Population Division. “Even though over time we’ve seen a higher number of counties with natural decrease and net international migration continuing to decline, in the past year, the contribution of domestic migration counteracted these trends so there were actually more counties growing than losing population.”

More than 73% (2,297) of U.S. counties experienced natural decrease in 2021, up from 45.5% in 2019 and 55.5% in 2020

Natural decrease occurs when there are more deaths than births in a population over a given time period.  In 2021, fewer births, an aging population and increased mortality – intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic–contributed to a rise in natural decrease. In 2021, all counties in Delaware, Maine, New Hampshire and Rhode Island experienced natural decrease.

According to the report, Utah County witnessed the tenth-largest jump among counties in the country with a population increase of 21,843. Additionally, St. George led all U.S. metro areas in percentage of growth with a 5.1% increase (9,300) last year.

Census Bureau

“That’s a really big deal. Utah is kind of in the middle of the pack in terms of population size, and it doesn’t typically see rankings nationally for numeric growth,” Emily Harris, a senior demographer at the University of Utah Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute told KSL.

Between some notable migration and more babies being born, Utah County led the state in both percentage and numeric growth of population over the span the data was collected. According to the bureau, Utah County increased 13,655 in net migration and gained 8,256 through natural increase, or how many more babies were born than people died.

“I think the natural increase component really moved Utah County up in the rankings,” Harris told KSL. “It’s not something that I necessarily see — Utah County fitting into those ranks from here on out. For me, it seems like it’s just going to be this year but I’m very curious to see … what Utah County is going to look like in two or three years. There’s just so much growth going on there.”

As Utah’s cities and counties continue to experience growth, what could be revealing the state’s secret and motivating individuals to move to the beehive state might be the boom in tourism to Utah’s state and national parks.

In 2021, Zion National Park had 5,039,835 visitors, the most in park history. Additionally, With approximately 11.64 million visitors in 2021, the state parks saw a million more visitors than the previous year for a 10% increase.

Harris said doesn’t really see the report as establishing a trend but will keep a close eye on it moving forward.



Illustration of population trends per U.S. county from July 1, 2020, to July 1, 2021.

Census Bureau

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