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How Unique Is Asheville Metro’s Population Growth?

Johnson Price Sprinkle PA investigates how unique is Asheville metros’ population growth. JPS is a sixty-year-old accounting firm serving Western North Carolina with dedicated CPAs equipping small-to-middle-market businesses with tax, business consulting, audit, and technology services.

The U.S. Census Bureau released 2016 population numbers for all metros in the nation. According to the new data the four-county Asheville metro (Buncombe, Haywood, Henderson and Madison counties) grew by 1.4 percent between 2015 and 2016; adding a net of 6,181 new residents to a total of 452,319. This places the Asheville metropolitan area fifth among all fifteen metros in the state for its pace of growth (see chart below).

North Carolina Metros
Percent Population Change 2015-2016

NC Metros Percent Population Change 2015-2016 graphic

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Asheville metro’s steady middle-of-the-pack growth might indicate nothing particularly special about the latest release. However, a closer look reveals several unique characteristics about population change in Asheville.

First is the length of time the metro has been experiencing steady population growth. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis tracks annual population growth for all 382 metros in the nation, going back to 1970. Over these past 47 years, most metros have lost population at some time. In fact, only 81 metros or 21 percent have never lost population since 1970. The Asheville metropolitan area is a member of this select group, as are seven other North Carolina metros (see map below). Over these years, Asheville metro’s annual rate of population growth averaged 1.3 percent; very close to the most recent rate of 1.4 percent.

Only 81 of All 382 U.S. Metros
Have Never Lost Population Since 1970

Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis

A second unique characteristic of Asheville metro’s population change is the source of that growth. Population change can be traced back to two main sources; natural and migration. Natural is simply the net difference between births and deaths. Migration is the net change between people moving into or out of an area. Migration includes both domestic and foreign movers. Between 2015 and 2016 Asheville metro added a net of 6,525 new residents from migration but lost a net of 344 residents due to deaths outpacing births. Meaning the total net population gain was due entirely to new residents migrating into the metro.

This combination of natural population loss and positive population gain from migration is only shared by 28 other metros in 2016 (see map below). Most of these metros are characterized by strong baby-boomer attraction. Eleven are in the state of Florida.

In 2016 Only 29 of All 382 U.S. Metros
Have Natural Population Losses & Positive Migration Gains

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2016

So is Asheville’s population growth unique? The Asheville metro is distinct in its unbroken stretch of annual population gains. Since 1970 the metro has never lost population; a feat shared by only 80 other metros in the nation. Additionally, the Asheville metropolitan area is unique in the source of its growth; currently, net gains are driven entirely by the attraction of new residents. A characteristic shared by only 28 other metros in the nation.

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