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Charlotte population tops 800,000, new census estimates show

New census estimates for Charlotte’s population make it the nation’s 3rd-fastest-growing city.
New census estimates for Charlotte’s population make it the nation’s 3rd-fastest-growing city. jsiner@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte cracked the 800,000 population mark in 2014, and its growth rate continued to outpace Raleigh’s, new census estimates released Thursday show.

Charlotte’s population is now an estimated 809,958 as the city grew by 2 percent between 2013 and last year.

“It’s nice to have a big, round number” like 800,000, said Bob Coats, the governor’s liaison to the U.S. Census Bureau. “It’s the same, constant, steady growth you are seeing in the Charlotte area and the Triangle.”

People are attracted to these regions for jobs, an improving economy, quality of life and affordable housing, experts say.

BY THE NUMBERS

In the Top 3

Among the 50 biggest U.S. cities, Charlotte’s 10.7 percent growth rate between the 2010 census and last year topped all but Austin, Texas, and New Orleans.

During that time, Charlotte gained 78,534 residents. Only seven other cities nationwide gained more people over that span.

Back to No. 17

Despite bypassing Fort Worth, Texas, last year to become the nation’s 16th biggest city, Charlotte is back in the 17th spot behind the Texas city. And the Census Bureau’s numbers now show that Charlotte was in the 17th slot for 2013 totals, too.

Fort Worth didn’t suddenly gain a ton more people. Rather, the shift happened for two reasons.

As part of routine methodology improvements, the Census Bureau tweaked the way it counts housing units that help shape the estimates. At the same time, new data was factored in for birth, death and migration rates.

And when the bureau releases its annual estimates, it also produces new estimates for each of the prior years dating to the last census.

Ahead of Raleigh

Raleigh’s annual growth rate last year was 1.9 percent, a tick behind Charlotte’s.

Charlotte’s growth rate topped Raleigh’s for each of the past four years as well as between 2010 and last year, when Raleigh’s rate was 8.9 percent (compared with Charlotte’s 10.7 percent rate.)

Charlotte’s population also is nearly double Raleigh’s total of 439,896.

In March, census estimates showed that Mecklenburg County officially broke the 1 million population mark last year. Wake County was close behind at 998,691, and demographers believe it’s just a matter of time before Wake surpasses Mecklenburg’s population.

And then there’s Waxhaw

The Union County town of Waxhaw is in a growth class of its own.

Its double-digit annual growth rate of 13.2 percent last year not only led the region but was one of the biggest in the nation. (It’s actually the largest rate for communities of at least 10,000.)

Its growth rate since 2010 stands at 29.3 percent, by far the most robust in the region and among the state leaders.

Town Manager Warren Wood expects Waxhaw’s estimated population of 12,750 will keep growing as the economy continues to improve. People like the schools, the small-town feel, the proximity to Charlotte and housing prices, among other things.

Wood said the town still needs to manage off-shoots of growth. It is working to diversify its tax base, manage traffic issues, especially around N.C. 16 and develop a robust parks and recreation program.

“Any town in the country would love to have these challenges,” Wood said.

Elsewhere in the region

Some other area regional trends: Matthews’ population finally topped 30,000, and Rock Hill’s is approaching 70,000. A couple of South Carolina communities, Tega Cay and Fort Mill, had sizable annual growth rates last year, of 8.5 percent and 6.1 percent, respectively.

And a few areas lost a little population last year, including Morganton, Lenoir, Lancaster, S.C., and Chester, S.C.

Bigger than Wyoming

Finally, here’s one more way to look at Charlotte’s population: The city has more people calling it home than Wyoming, Vermont, Alaska or North Dakota.

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