Seattle, the fastest growing major US city of the 2010s, is no longer growing as fast.
Newly revised demographics from the Washington Office of Financial Management show the state’s largest city grew just 0.7% from April 1, 2020 to April 1, 2021, a net gain of about 5 400 people.
This brings Seattle’s total population to just over 742,000.
That’s a far cry from the population gains we saw for much of the 2010s, when the city grew at times by more than 3% in a single year.
It should be noted that the state revised its population estimates for 2021 late last year. Initially, the figure for Seattle was a bit higher, at nearly 770,000, which made it seem like the city’s population had grown at a much faster rate.
Why has the state revised its figures downwards?
Their initial estimate came out before we got our first look at the 2020 census data, which was released in August. The 2020 census numbers are, of course, a count of every person living in the United States (or, at least, our best attempt at a count). As such, these numbers are the benchmark for all population estimates over the decade.
And the 2020 census showed Seattle’s population to be just 737,000. This figure is still lower (by about 10,000) than the state’s estimate for Seattle in 2019.
Does this mean that Seattle’s population decreased in 2020? It’s possible. There have certainly been plenty of stories of people leaving big cities during the pandemic, choosing to move to the suburbs or smaller towns.
But it’s also possible that our 2019 population estimates were a bit inflated, and the 2020 census simply represents a correction, rather than a decrease in Seattle’s population.
While Seattle has dipped a bit in 2020, that doesn’t seem like a lasting trend. While the city’s 0.7% growth in 2021 is modest, it’s still growth.
And that’s not really a surprise when you look at the housing market in Seattle. The city continues to add housing (check out all the new high-rises along Denny Way in South Lake Union), the housing market is boiling, and rents are up slightly from pre-pandemic levels. These are not signs of a shrinking city.
The state uses a wide variety of documents to determine changes in population. Some examples include vital statistics data (births and deaths), a multitude of administrative records (counts of registered voters, licensed drivers, motor vehicle registrations, students from kindergarten to grade 12, Medicaid and Medicare recipients), housing data (number of completed housing units, mail delivery statistics, etc.), and data from so-called “congregate neighborhoods” (dormitories, nursing homes, prisons, etc.).
Seattle isn’t alone in having a slower growth rate. Bellevue’s population grew by only 0.5% in 2021, a net gain of about 750 people. The population of Bellevue now stands at nearly 153,000. And Tacoma’s population fell slightly, down 0.3% from 2020, to just under 219,000.
Of the largest cities in our metro area, Everett grew the fastest at 1.5%, bringing the population to 112,000. Of cities with a population of at least 30,000, Lake Stevens grew the fastest at 3.9%.
The fastest rate of growth in our metro area — by far — has occurred in the small town of Black Diamond, about 30 miles southeast of Seattle. Its population has increased by 13% in 2021, an increase of more than 600 people. Black Diamond is home to a large new planned community called Ten Trails, which is being built in phases. This community, which opened in 2018, will eventually include approximately 6,000 homes, bringing more than 15,000 people to Black Diamond.
The other fastest growing places in our metro area last year were, like Black Diamond, smaller towns not close to Seattle: Edgewood, Bonney Lake, Sultan and Arlington. All of these places rose by more than 4%.
This seems to support the idea that the pandemic, and subsequent increase in working from home, is pushing more people into smaller communities – places where you get more home for your money and where there is easy access to recreation. outdoors.