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People moving from other states made SC 6th-fastest-growing as US birth rates slow

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People moving from other states has driven the population growth in South Carolina in recent years. Since 2010, the state has ranked fourth in the U.S. for net migration. File/Wade Spees/Staff

The influx of residents moving from other parts of the country to South Carolina made it the sixth-fastest-growing state in the U.S. this year. 

The Palmetto State gained just 1,600 more people from 2018 to 2019 than it did the year before, but its percent increase ranked several spots higher as other states saw their population growth slow.

South Carolina is now home to about 5.15 million people after adding 64,558 new residents from July 2018 to July 2019, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Monday. 

The state saw the same percent increase, about 1.3 percent, last year and was ranked ninth for percentage growth.

Idaho, which ranked second behind Nevada last year, had the fastest growth by percentage in 2019 at 2.1 percent. Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Texas all made the top five by percent growth.

Three states that had outpaced South Carolina's growth in 2018 — Colorado, Florida and Washington state — saw their growth rates drop this year, bumping South Carolina higher up on the list.

Slowing birth rates have continued to dampen population growth nationwide. 

The natural increase in the U.S. — the number of deaths subtracted from the number of births — was below 1 million in 2019. It hasn't been that low in decades, Sandra Johnson, a demographer and statistician in the Population Division of the Census Bureau, said in a release Monday.

There also were fewer births in 2019 than in 2018 in 42 states, including South Carolina.

“While natural increase is the biggest contributor to the U.S. population increase, it has been slowing over the last five years,” Johnson said. 

Four states and Puerto Rico had negative birth rates, compared with just two states and Puerto Rico last year.

Maine, West Virginia, Vermont and New Hampshire all had more deaths than births recorded for 2019. 

The net gain from people moving from other countries to the U.S. is also dipping. About 595,000 more people moved into the country than out of it from 2018 to 2019, the lowest level this decade.

With births and international in-migration on the decline, population changes across the U.S. have largely been the result of people shuffling from state to state, leaving some areas with dwindling populations and others, like South Carolina, with a steady stream of new residents. 

Moves between states fueled much of the population growth in the South, which outpaced other regions for both percentage and numeric growth in 2019. 

In the Northeast, where people are leaving states such as New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts at faster rates than others are moving in, the region's population decreased for the first time in a decade. 

Ten states saw their population shrink from 2018 to 2019, including four where the figure dropped by 10,000 people or more. 

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Meanwhile, the Palmetto State gained tens of thousands of people from out-of-state moves. 

The vast majority — about 82 percent — of the 64,500 people who were added to South Carolina's ranks of residents moved from other parts of the United States. 

The natural increase in South Carolina was minimal since there were just about 5,600 more births than deaths for the year. 

That's "consistent with the trends" the Census Bureau has seen from other states that ranked highly this year for population growth, Johnson told The Post and Courier. 

Domestic migration was the largest component of population change from 2018 to 2019 for all of the top 10 states by numeric growth except for Texas, Johnson noted. It was also the largest component of growth for the top 10 states by percentage growth, with Texas and Utah as the exceptions. 

At the same time, 27 states and Washington, D.C., had more U.S. residents move out than new domestic residents move in. 

Since 2010, South Carolina has ranked fifth for the highest net migration from other states. The state has gained more than 367,000 people from state-to-state moves in that time, outpaced only by Florida (1.29 million), Texas (1.15 million), North Carolina (475,508) and Arizona (453,723). 

The most recent state-to-state migration data, which the Census Bureau released in late October, found that North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, New York and California were the top five states, in order, that residents left to move to South Carolina in the last year.

North Carolina, Georgia and Florida were all in the top three states for moves in both directions. About the same number of people left South Carolina to move to those states as people from those states came to South Carolina. 

New York and California, however, ranked much lower for people leaving the Palmetto State. 

Those states also saw the biggest net losses from state-to-state migration in 2019 and were two of just three states that lost 100,000 of its residents from domestic migration. 

The Palmetto State still ranks 23rd for overall population. Its population exceeds Alabama's but is still several hundred thousand residents below No. 22-ranked Minnesota, which had more than 5.63 million residents as of July.  

For the last few years, the Palmetto State's population growth has been relatively steady. It peaked around 2015 when the state's population went up by 1.4 percent in a year.

Since then, the places within South Carolina where new residents are moving to has changed somewhat, though the coast and parts of the Upstate near Greenville still see the bulk of the influx. 

Growth has slowed in Charleston and Dorchester counties but had sped up in Berkeley County, according to the most recent Census estimates released in April.

The top two hot South Carolina metros for population growth in 2018 were Myrtle Beach and Spartanburg.

Reach Emily Williams at 843-937-5553. Follow her on Twitter @emilye_williams.

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