North Carolina gained about 100,000 people between 2012 and 2013, the U.S. Census Bureau reported, a 1 percent growth rate that puts the state on track to overtake Michigan to become the nation’s ninth-largest state in 2014.
The Census Bureau estimated North Carolina’s population at 9,848,060 as of July 1, 2013, up from 9,748,364 the same date in 2012.
Although North Carolina remained the 10th-largest state in population, it closed to within 50,000 of Michigan. Assuming both states retain their current rates of growth, North Carolina should pass Michigan in population sometime early in 2014.
North Carolina’s growth has chugged along at a steady pace since the 2010 Census, despite an unemployment rate that has been higher than the national average.
“I think part of it is that we have an outstanding reputation for job creation,” said Bill McCoy, a consultant with the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute. “Even though there may not be jobs, people keep coming and hope they can find one. The other factor is that it is a very attractive retirement state. They can move even when situations are bad.”
The Census Bureau said that North Dakota, which is the center of an energy boom, was the fastest-growing state with a 3.1 percent increase between 2012 and 2013. Other fast-growing states were also west of the Mississippi, including Utah, Colorado, Texas and Nevada.
Ranked by percentage growth, North Carolina was 14th, ahead of Hawaii, Montana and Delaware but trailing South Carolina, Wyoming and Idaho. But in terms of sheer numbers added, North Carolina was fourth, behind only Texas, California and Florida.
California remained the most populous state, with 38.3 million people, followed by Texas with 26.4 million. New York was third with 19.6 million people, but Florida had only 100,000 fewer people and should pass New York in the coming year.
Brian and Brenda McGrail said they are happy with their move to Forsyth County from the Washington, D.C., area about a year and a half ago. Earlier this year they bought a house in Clemmons.
“For 20 years I had been looking at this area to eventually move to with my family,” Brian McGrail said. “It was financially a good time to leave.”
McGrail is taking care of his two young children and his wife is working at Wake Forest University. He said he was attracted to the Triad because being in an area with several cities would give more choices about where to work. The couple considered moving to Pennsylvania but decided to come here instead.
“You have the best people in North Carolina,” he said. “I am a person of disability and have a wheelchair mounted on the back of my car with a ramp. In the Washington area I can count on my hands the number of people who asked if they could help move this machinery off of my car. Here, every day five people will come and ask if they can help. I don’t need it, but it is nice to be asked. It lets you know the quality of the area you live in.”
The latest Census Bureau estimates show that North Carolina has added about 313,000 people since the 2010 Census — a growth rate of 3.3 percent.
North Carolina ranked 12th in population among the 50 states as late as 1970, when a period of growth in Sun Belt states began. North Carolina passed Indiana and Massachusetts to reach 10th place by 1980, then fell to 11th behind Georgia by the 2000 Census. North Carolina overtook New Jersey before the 2010 Census to regain 10th place. Meanwhile, Georgia moved ahead of Michigan in 2012 to become the eighth-largest state.
The new estimates gave no figures at the county level, but Mecklenburg and Wake counties have been flirting with the 1 million mark in recent estimates.
“One of the threats is that the places that are attractive to come to can get overcrowded and highly congested and get to the situation where the people really don’t want to live there,” McCoy said. “I don’t think we are there yet. I expect that what we have been seeing in the last several years will continue.”