TWIN FALLS — The Magic Valley’s growth is slowing down according to the latest population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.
After two years of annual population growth at 1.3%, the population of the eight-county region of south-central Idaho grew by just 0.8% between July 2017 and June 2018, the agency reported. Accounting for the change was the decline in net migration — the difference between people moving in and moving out of the area.
During the most recent year, the counties gained only 391 people through migration, down 69.4% from the 1,276 gained between July 2016 and June 2017. Meanwhile, natural growth — the difference between births and deaths — in the counties was essentially unchanged compared to the previous year.
“This is slower growth; there’s no doubt about it,” Idaho Department of Labor Regional Economist Jan Roeser said. “It may be an indicator of slower times coming.”
Public entities use population data in various ways, such as creating funding formulas or determining capacity in public schools, she said. But Roeser notes that with the 2020 Census beginning next April, data will change. She expects the population estimates will be revised upward, as they typically are each year when the U.S. Census Bureau benchmarks its data.
Here’s a look at what the latest estimates have to say about how many came to and left the Magic Valley over the year:
The Magic Valley’s population has been growing over the past decade, but less quickly now. U.S. Census Bureau estimates put the eight counties’ combined population at 199,069. Every county gained at least some population from the previous year.
Numerically, the county that had the highest population increase was Twin Falls County, gaining an estimated 803 people between July 2017 and June 2018 to bring the estimated population to 86,081. The county with the highest percentage change was Camas County, which gained 30 people to end with 1,127.
Regionwide, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates there were 2,793 babies born from July 2017 to June 2018, essentially the same number as the prior year. After accounting for deaths, the natural increase equated to about 1,274 with no statistically significant change from the prior year.
Twin Falls County showed an eight-year high in the number of births, with an estimated 1,231 babies delivered for that time frame.
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An estimated 1,519 people died throughout the eight counties, but that number isn’t particularly high. Most counties had little change in the estimated number of deaths, but those in Twin Falls County rose from 712 to 746.
With people moving to and from other states, U.S. Census estimates show the region had a net increase of only 49 people.
“We had an outpouring to other states,” Roeser said.
Cassia, Gooding, Jerome, Lincoln and Minidoka counties lost a combined 297 people to other counties or states. Twin Falls County gained 161 people – far less than the larger gains of 869 and 800 estimated from the previous years.
Blaine County gained 156 and Camas County gained 29 from domestic migration.
Roeser believes some of the drop in growth is a result of a low housing supply – especially with affordable housing.
Net migration from other countries peaked between 2015 and 2016 with a net increase of 698 in the eight counties.
That number fell drastically the following year to 334, and was up slightly to 342 between July 2017 and June 2018.
“A lot of that has to do with some public policy issues that we don’t have control over,” Roeser said.
The Migration Policy Institute reported in 2017 that President Donald Trump’s administration that year “reduced refugee admissions to the lowest level since the resettlement program was created in 1980.” The administration also banned nationals of eight countries from entering the U.S.
The south-central Idaho counties with the largest net migration numbers for international migration were Twin Falls County, which gained 159 people, and Blaine County, which gained 83.