The latest U.S. Census Bureau annual population estimates released Thursday show Sumter County and many other rural counties in the state flat or losing population since the last decennial census in 2010.
In reviewing the latest totals, …
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In reviewing the latest totals, University of South Carolina Research Economist Joey Von Nessen discussed how those county population trends mirror economic growth in the counties.
Von Nessen said the research division at USC's Darla Moore School of Business and other economists look at two primary sources for population growth: job seekers and retirees. Those sources tend to explain the differences in population totals across counties in the state.
According to Von Nessen, job seekers - both in-state and from out-of-state - typically move to major metropolitan areas of the state, Charleston, Lexington and Greenville, which tend to have the strongest job growth and lowest unemployment rates.
He noted Charleston has grown by 55,755 residents, or 15.9%, in the last eight years, according to the census estimates. Berkeley County, a Charleston suburb, grew by 42,775 residents, or 24%. Lexington grew by 32,603 residents, or 12.4%.
"Because there is such a strong labor market there, we see people migrating to those regions," Von Nessen said. "Conversely, we see the more rural areas of South Carolina that have not experienced as much job growth; so, job seekers clearly aren't going to be seeking those regions out."
He noted Marlboro County currently has the state's highest unemployment rate at 8.6%.
In the bureau's estimates, Marlboro's population has dipped by 8.8% in the last eight years from 28,935 in 2010 to 26,398 in 2018.
Von Nessen said most retirees move into the state's metropolitan and coastal areas - such as Horry, Charleston and Beaufort counties - though not exclusively.
Home of Myrtle Beach, Horry County is the fastest-growing county in the state in the eight years, increasing by 27.9%, or 75,021 residents, according to the bureau.
Sumter and the tri-county region
Sumter County currently finds itself flat in population during the last eight years. At Census 2010, Sumter's population was 107,456. The county's 2018 estimate is 106,512, a 0.9% dip.
Clarendon County has experienced a drop from 34,971 residents to 33,700, or -3.6%.
One of the most rural counties in the state, Lee has seen its population drop by 10.8% from 19,220 in the last decennial census to 17,142 in 2018, according to the bureau's estimates.
Interestingly, in the decade of the 2000s through 2009, Sumter had similar flat or slightly declining annual population estimates. However, the 2010 census, which canvassed the entire county with individual and family-count surveys from the bureau, did reveal the county grew by 2.7% during the decade from 104,646 in 2000 to 107,456 in 2010. Clarendon had a similar scenario for estimates during the decade and showed a 2,469 population increase in the 2010 census from 2000. Lee County lost population in the 10-year period, decreasing from 20,119 residents in 2000 to 19,220 in 2010.
South Carolina's outlook as a whole
Fueled by those major metropolitan counties that Von Nessen noted and their associated suburbs, the state has grown by 458,753 residents, or 9.9%, during the eight years, according to the census' estimates program.
The top three fastest-growing counties in the state this decade are Horry at 27.9%, Lancaster, whose northern tip is growing as a Charlotte suburb, at 24.4%, and Berkeley at 24%.
Lee's estimated decline in population since the 2010 census of 10.8% is only exceeded by two other counties in the state - Allendale (-14.6%) and Williamsburg (-11.1%).
A total of 21 of the state's 46 counties have shown a population decline since the census in 2010. Conversely, 25 counties, or 54.3%, have gained population since 2010.
To provide the most accurate population data, the bureau's estimate totals lag by one year.
Later this spring, the bureau will release city and town population estimates for 2018.
COUNTY .. 2010 Census .. 2018 Estimate Pct. change 2010-18
Sumter .107,456 .. 106,512 (-0.9%)
Clarendon .34,971 .. ...33,700 (-3.6%)
Lee 19,220 .....17,142 (-10.8%)
STATE 4,625,364 .....5,084,127 +9.9%
Source: U.S. Census Bureau Population Estimates' program
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