ATLANTA — Population growth in metropolitan Atlanta, including Henry and Clayton counties, appears to be on a downward slide, according to the area’s numbers crunchers.
The Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) estimates the 10-county Atlanta region added about 37,200 people between April 1, 2011, and April 1, 2012.
“While this number is higher than the previous year, it marks a fourth consecutive year of slower-than-normal growth when compared to what the region experienced each year from 2000 to 2007,” said ARC spokesman Jim Jaquish. “In the last two years, during the recession, metro Atlanta added approximately 72,000 people. During the decade of the 2000s, it routinely added nearly 100,000 each year. According to the U.S. Census, metro Atlanta (28 counties) ranked third in overall growth in the nation between 2000 and 2010, adding more than 1 million people. Only Dallas and Houston grew faster.”
Counties in the region also include Cherokee, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Fulton, Gwinnett and Rockdale counties. ARC Executive Director Doug Hooker said the region’s growth remains “laudable in the face of the economic pressures we face.”
The ARC, in a recent press release, attributed the slowed growth pattern to a sluggish national economy, adding that similar patterns are visible in other areas of the country.
“People just don’t move as much when the economy is slow,” said Mike Alexander, chief of the ARC’s Research Division. “And, considering that this recession started in the housing market and crippled that industry, property values have declined. That means fewer people are able to sell their homes and move to a different metro area.”
Locust Grove City Manager Tim Young said Henry County’s population growth has slowed considerably, compared to what he called the area’s “boom era” between 1993 and 2007.
“During that period, the overall county population would increase between six percent to nearly 11 percent per year, each year, at that point,” said Young. “For most cities in Henry County, the population growth was more pronounced in the 2000 decade, with cities growing 12.5 percent to over 25 percent annually.
“The rate of growth now is very slow, most likely below ‘natural increase’ (i.e. births – deaths), because there is pronounced out-migration on a net scale — more moving out than moving in,” Young continued.
He added that a cause for the slowed growth is a weak economy, which caused unemployment to increase dramatically from 2000 to 2010.
“Less employment in the prime growth sector, construction, meant people migrated to other parts of the region — northeast Cobb, Cherokee, Forsyth; the state (Augusta, Columbus, Savannah); or the nation (Dallas, Charlotte, Nashville),” said Young. “Likely the largest growth in the region is occurring on the north side and in-town, as the trends across the nation appear to be within larger urban areas over more sparsely settled suburbs.”
Jaquish added that Gwinnett County led the region’s growth, adding 9,000 residents over the last year. Fulton County added 7,900, followed by DeKalb with 6,300, and Cobb with 5,900.
“All 10 counties and the city of Atlanta experienced growth during the year,” Jaquish said. “None saw an overall loss of population. This growth means that metro Atlanta is now home to 4,179,500 people, making it larger than 24 states, according to U.S. Census data.”
Bob Summerson works at Emily’s Attic, on the McDonough Square. He said the area’s population is not as explosive as it has been in recent years.
“We’ve been here about eight years,” said Summerson, 73, of McDonough. “Traffic has slowed down the last couple of years, just from the foot traffic that we see, the vendors that have closed up shop and gone elsewhere, and a number of vacant storefronts that we have on the Square. ... I know there’s a lot of different reasons for that, but some of it is the sag in the economy.”