Local population growth stalled

Population growth in Grand Junction and Mesa County sputtered to a near halt in 2010 as the national economy slowed, estimates by the Colorado State Demography Office show.

The broader Western Slope population similarly saw a decrease in its growth rate, the figures show.

The slow-growth trend reflects a shift in the economic fortunes of the Western Slope, said Elizabeth Garner, state demographer.

“To be honest, it’s not been easy out there and you’ve lost a lot of jobs,” Garner said. “Definitely things are slowing down. As we’re hearing folks saying, we’re hovering just above stall.”

Mesa County saw growth of 3.2 percent in 2007 over the 2006 population estimate of 133,128, the demography office said. That rate slowed to 2.4 percent in 2008, then accelerated to 2.9 percent in 2009 and hit the brakes in 2010, falling to 1.3 percent, the numbers show.

One hurdle for Mesa County is the recovery on the Front Range, said Grand Junction Area Chamber of Commerce President Diane Schwenke.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that “energy workers are going where the work is,” Schwenke said.

Until recently, people have had little reason to pick up stakes and move because of limited opportunities elsewhere, Schwenke said.

That’s changing.

“We’re seeing the economy pick up on the Front Range, so some families are making the hard choices to leave the area,” she said.

Grand Junction grew 3 percent from 53,448 in 2006 to 55,079 in 2007, according to the estimates. The growth rate then slid to 2.7 percent and then increased 3.3 percent in 2009.

The city grew by 27 residents between 2009 and 2010, according to the estimates.

Overall, the Western Slope grew from 514,152 in 2006 to 552,564 at the time of the April 1, 2010, census, the demography office figures show.

That figure receded slightly in the four months after the census was taken, from 552,564 to 552,005, the statistics show. Mesa County, likewise, reflected a slight population drop during the four months after the 2010 census, from 146,723 to 146,581, according to the estimates.

New estimates being drafted by the demography office predict the county’s population rebounding a bit, Garner said.

Estimates includes counts of births and deaths, as well as information from the Internal Revenue Service.

Statewide, Colorado’s population stood at 5,029,196 in the census, and the state estimated it grew to 5,050,870 four months later.

From 2000 to 2005, Colorado grew at an annual rate of 1.4 percent, then at an annual rate of 1.6 percent between 2005 and 2010, for an average growth rate of 1.5 percent.

Over the decade, Mesa County grew by 1.9 percent annually for the first five years, then 2.6 percent annually over the last five years, for an average of 2.2 percent.

Delta County grew at an annual rate of 1.1 percent for the first five years of the decade, then 1 percent for the last five for an overall average of 1 percent.

Montrose grew by 2 percent and 2.2 percent over the same periods, for an average of 2.1 percent.

Garfield was the fastest-growing western Colorado county, up by an average of 2.2 percent in the first five years and 2.7 percent in the last five for a decade-long average of 2.4 percent.

In Rio Blanco County, the population fell at an average of 0.5 percent for the first five years of the decade, then grew at a 2.6 percent annual rate, for 1 percent over the entire period.

The demography office’s updated population forecasts show Colorado’s population growing by 1.6 percent per year over the next five years, increasing to 1.8 percent per year before the end of the decade.


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