California's population growth highest since before recession

California's population growth highest since before recession

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California's population grew by the highest rate in nearly a decade over the last year, swelling the state's ranks to more than 38.2 million, new population figures released Thursday showed.

The state added 332,000 people between July 1, 2012 and July 1 of this year, a growth rate of 0.9 percent that is the highest since 2003-04, before the recession, the state Department of Finance reported.

SNAPSHOT: CALIFORNIA'S INCREASING POPULATION >>

Demographic experts said the increase highlights the recovery in the job market, especially since net migration added 66,000 people to the state — an increase of 71 percent from the year before. Alameda County, on the outskirts of Silicon Valley and home to a fast-growing technology sector, accounted for the largest share of the migration, with more than 15,000 new arrivals from other states and countries.

"We are at the beginning of an upturn in population growth driven by the reemergence of job growth in the state," said Stephen Levy, director of the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy.

Santa Clara County, home to Silicon Valley, and Orange County, which houses a sizable number of tech firms, each received more than 15,000 foreign immigrants, he noted.

While population growth is largely driven by new births, the uptick in the state's growth rate stems from the rise in migration to California, said Hans Johnson, senior and Bren fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California.

For many years, counties in the San Francisco Bay Area were among the state's slower growing regions due to restrictions on land and housing, but that has changed as foreign immigrants, many highly-educated and from Asia, have flocked there in search of jobs, Johnson said.

"If you attract young, well-educated migrants — which we are — many of them are at points in their lives where they're starting families, so that will have an impact on births," Johnson said.

Over the year, the state gained 169,000 foreign immigrants and saw nearly 103,000 residents leave for other states, the state reported.

Alameda and Santa Clara counties in the Bay Area saw the largest percentage increases in population, followed by Santa Barbara, Placer and Kern counties. Ten counties, mostly in more remote areas, saw population declines.

More than half of all Californians live in just five counties: Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino.

State officials use the annual population data to determine how to spend state money, distribute social welfare programs and assess the state's overall needs.

SNAPSHOT: CALIFORNIA'S INCREASING POPULATION

California's population grew nearly 1 percent during the past year, the highest annual rate in nearly a decade.

While the bulk of the increase can be attributed to births, demographic experts say the uptick that added 332,000 people to the state also stems from increased migration to the recovering labor market.

Q: How big is California's population?

A: The state's population is the largest in the U.S. with 38.2 million residents.

Q: Why did the state experience higher annual growth last year?

A: As California's economy recovers and adds jobs, more foreign immigrants are being drawn to the state.

Q: What is immigration's impact on growth?

A: Without foreign immigration, more people would be leaving California for other states than moving here. The state drew 169,000 new foreign immigrants over the past year, while nearly 103,000 people moved to other states.

Q: Who are these foreign immigrants?

A: Many are young, well-educated people from Asian countries who are pursuing job opportunities in Silicon Valley.

Q: Where is the state growing fastest?

A: Alameda County, near Silicon Valley, grew fastest during the year, increasing its population to nearly 1.6 million people, a gain of almost 1.7 percent.

Q: Where is most of the state's population located?

A: More than half of all California residents live in just five counties: Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino.

Q: How does the state's growth compare to a decade ago?

A: Growth has slowed since a decade ago, when the population increased 1.29 percent to nearly 35.4 million.