Business & Economy

LA grew bigger, but not faster, than any other county in California

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Los Angeles County saw a larger overall increase to its population than any other California county over the past year, though its overall growth rate lagged in comparison, according to new state figures.

The county grew by more than 43,000 people from July 2015 to July 2016, accounting for close to 15 percent of the state's overall population increase, according to demographic estimates released Monday by the state Department of Finance.

But L.A. is by far the most populous county in the state, with 10.2 million people — San Diego comes in a distant second with 3.3 million. When looking at the overall rate of growth, L.A. County ranked just 36th out of 58, with less than half a percent population increase. The statewide growth rate, for comparison, was .75 percent, with an overall increase of nearly 300,000 people.

"L.A. continues and Orange County continue to attract individuals, but perhaps not at the same rate that they were a couple of years ago," Walter Schwarm, a demographer with the Department of Finance, told KPCC.

This year L.A. County had its smallest population increase since the 2010 Census. Orange County also grew at a slightly slower clip (.64 percent) than it has in recent years.

Contributing to L.A. County's mediocre numbers: a negative net migration. About 15,000 more people left the area than moved into it. In fact, L.A. County's net migration was negative in five out of the last six years. The only net positive year was 2011, when about 16,000 more people moved here than away.

So what drove the population growth? In a word, birthrate. More people were born here than died, creating what's called a "natural increase." L.A. County's natural increase was about 59,000, enough to offset the negative migration.

This is nothing new, however. Increases to California's population have been driven primarily by new births since the 1990s, Schwarm said.

Before that, the state saw a huge influx of people in the '70s and '80s, "but we're now kind of an established state," Schwarm said. "We have more individuals that are native-born in California than come from other states or are from abroad, which was not the case for a long period of time."

But the state is still a strong attractor of immigration, with approximately 30 percent of those entering the United States each year choosing to come to this state, Schwarm said.

L.A. County's population growth is still a good sign.

"I think it's notable that L.A. is still in a positive sense. It spent a good proportion or some period of the 2000-2010 decade losing population every single year," Schwarm said.

The net positive increase demonstrates that L.A. County still generates enough jobs and housing to keep people coming, Schwarm said.

Behind L.A. County, the biggest overall increases were seen in Riverside, San Diego, Orange and San Bernardino counties.

The estimates are compiled by the Department of Finance from a number of local, state and federal sources, including birth and death counts, driver's licenses, address changes, housing unit data, school enrollment data and federal income tax returns.

The information is used by various government, research and academic organizations for budgeting, needs assessments, program planning, program evaluation and the distribution of state funds, according to the Finance Department.

So which California county grew the fastest from 2015-2016? That would be Yolo County, which has a total population of 216,866. Yolo saw an increase of about 4,000 people, or 1.97 percent.