Seattle’s decade of record-breaking growth may be slowing down, but it’s not done yet. There are still a lot more folks coming than going.
Census data released Thursday shows that from July 1, 2017, to July 1, 2018, the city’s population grew by more than 15,000, bringing the total to 745,000.
That pencils out to a one-year increase of 2.1%, which ranks Seattle as the second-fastest growing among the 50 most-populous U.S. cities. We were just a fraction behind No. 1, Fort Worth, Texas.
Even so, Seattle is slowing down a little. One year earlier, from 2016 to 2017, the city added 19,000 people, achieving a growth rate of 2.7%. And the year before that, Seattle grew even faster, and ranked No. 1 in the nation. In fact, last year’s 2.1% growth rate was Seattle’s slowest since 2010, when the city was still feeling the effects of the nationwide recession.
So why is Seattle the second-fastest growing big city in the country (that’s the same position as last year) despite a slower population increase?
Because we were not alone in seeing a deceleration. The fastest growth rate recorded last year — Fort Worth’s 2.2% — is modest compared with the top cities in previous years this decade. And many of the big cities that had been growing rapidly are showing signs of slowing down. For example, 2017’s fastest-growing city, Atlanta, fell back to 15th place, its growth rate cut in half. And two former No. 1 cities — Austin, Texas, and Denver — have both seen growth drop significantly from their peaks.
But Seattle’s unprecedented population boom — even if it’s waning a bit — has been incredibly long-lasting. We have now ranked among the top 5 fastest-growing big cities for six consecutive years. And if you add up all the population gains since 2010, Seattle has grown by an amazing 22 percent, making us the fastest-growing big city of the decade. We overtook Austin for those bragging rights last year.
Among all U.S. cities last year, Phoenix had the largest numeric increase, at about 25,000, edging out last year’s No. 1, San Antonio, Texas. Seattle’s 15,000-person gain ranks fourth.
But not every big city is growing. In fact, the list of major cities that are losing people has been getting longer each year. In 2018, among the 50 largest cities, eleven shrank. Just five years earlier, in 2013, only two major cities saw one-year population declines (Detroit and Cleveland).
Last year, Baltimore shrank the most, losing more than one percent of its population. New York City had the biggest numeric decline, at about 40,000. And there’s a new addition to the shrinking-cities list — San Jose, California, which lost about 2,000 in population.
Also new: Tampa, Florida, debuted on the list of the 50 most-populous cities in 2018, bumping off Wichita, Kansas, in the process.
While Seattle may not be gaining population as fast as it was, it’s still blowing away the King County suburbs when it comes to growth. In fact, 2018 marks the third consecutive year that Seattle has added more people than all the King County suburbs combined. Excluding Seattle, the county grew by about 13,500 people last year, for a growth rate of a little less than 1 percent — less than half Seattle’s rate.
That said, there is one suburb that left Seattle in the dust: Redmond. With a 4.2% increase, it is the fastest-growing city in Washington, among those with at least 50,000 people. Redmond’s population now stands at 65,000.
Among the county’s other cities with at least 50,000 people, Bellevue grew by 1.5%, followed by Sammamish, at 1.1%. Kent, Kirkland, Auburn and Shoreline only saw small increases of less than one percent. Renton’s population was unchanged, and Federal Way and Burien shrank a little bit.
Seattle remains, of course, the state’s largest city, as well as the 18th largest city in the U.S. Spokane is still No. 2 in the state, and just slightly larger than Tacoma. Vancouver and Bellevue round out the top five, in that order. Bellevue’s population is now 148,000.
Just as Seattle is perennially Washington’s biggest city, the state’s smallest town also has no real competition. With a population of 50 — unchanged from the year before — that title goes to Krupp, in Grant County.
The second-smallest town, Lamont in Whitman County, increased its population from 74 to 76. That’s a growth rate of 2.7 percent — a little faster than Seattle’s.
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