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These are the fastest growing and shrinking counties in North Carolina

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Many Charlotte-area counties continue to experience robust growth, according to recently released census data.

The data from the U.S. Census Bureau covers county population estimates as of mid-2016.

Leading the way in the growth rates from 2015 to last year are two South Carolina counties, Lancaster and York, followed by Cabarrus, Mecklenburg and Union counties with rates from nearly 2 percent to 4 percent.

What’s more, those five counties all experienced double-digit growth rates between the 2010 Census and last year, from nearly 13 percent for Union to 17 percent for Lancaster.

“The growth (in the Charlotte area) is still looking very strong,” said Bob Coats, the governor’s liaison to the Census Bureau. “Consistent growth shows that the area is healthy and continues to be robust. It’s a very positive situation to have.”

Indeed, strong growth continues to be seen around North Carolina cities.

Mecklenburg remains the largest county in the Carolinas, with an estimated 2016 population of more than 1.05 million.

Right behind it is Wake, which has about 8,000 fewer people than Mecklenburg. In 2010, that gap stood at nearly 19,000.

And Wake is continuing to close the gap. Its growth rate remains a little bigger than Mecklenburg’s. It has more room available for development and covers more land than Mecklenburg, said Rebecca Tippett, director of Carolina Demography at UNC-Chapel Hill’s Carolina Population Center.

Experts cite those those factors for why they expect Wake to one day be the state’s most populous county. Mecklenburg’s growth tends to spill over to adjoining counties, including Cabarrus, Union and York.

Other data highlights include:

▪ Cabarrus County crossed the 200,000-person threshold last year.

▪ Some of the region’s more rural areas had little growth between 2015 and last year. Cleveland County grew just 0.2 percent. Anson County and Chester County, S.C., lost population.

▪ The Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia metro area grew by 2 percent since 2015. During that period, the Raleigh metro area grew by 2.5 percent.

▪ For a little perspective, the most populous county in the nation, Los Angeles, has 10.1 million residents – about the population for all of North Carolina.

Adam Bell: 704-358-5696, @abell

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