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Several Utah cities and counties saw major growth in 2021, but one county remained the same

A nighttime view of Salt Lake City, Utah as seen from the International Space Station, Dec. 12, 2013
A nighttime view of Salt Lake City, Utah as seen from the International Space Station, Dec. 12, 2013

The latest data from the U.S. Census notes that several Utah counties grew during the last year. At the same time, in the largest county in the state, the growth rate stagnated.

Utah County ranked among the top 10 places in the nation contributing to growth during the 2020-21 year. Several other Utah cities, like St. George, Provo, Orem and Logan, ranked first, eighth, and 10th in the nation in terms of growth percentage.

Salt Lake County, however, was one of the few places in the state where growth plateaued.

Emily Harris, a senior demographer at the Kem C. Gardner Institute, said these numbers resemble what she and colleagues have seen in the last couple of years. Still, she said, it was a shock to see such low numbers for Salt Lake County.

Harris said the pandemic is one factor driving the new data.

“We noticed a lot of people kind of moving around as teleworking became more of a thing,” she said. “Salt Lake County has such a tight housing market, it's certainly possible that people were finding homes in neighboring counties.”

She said similar population shifts are happening across the country.

“A lot of metro areas and larger counties were showing either net outmigration or much lower growth than normal and a lot more growth in the medium-sized counties in the micro areas,” Harris said.

Jevon Gibb, economic development director for Salt Lake County, said these changes would worry him if job numbers followed a similar trend. He hasn’t seen that yet.

Gibb said higher housing costs also contribute to the demographic changes. Housing prices have grown more competitive in the last couple of years; rents and purchase prices that used to look outrageous have become routine.

That’s one reason Gibb said county leaders have to think about planning smart growth in the region.

“Too much growth can be a bad thing, too little growth can also be a bad thing,” he said. “Finding that sweet spot is important, and making sure that you are planning effectively to find and maintain that sweet spot.”

Emily Harris predicts the numbers for Salt Lake County will begin to rebound as the region returns to pre-pandemic growth patterns.

Produced with assistance from the Public Media Journalists Association Editor Corps funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.

Ivana is a general assignment reporter
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