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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- The state's latest estimate of Utah's population is nearly 2.55 million, up from last year's estimate of nearly 2.47 million.
Salt Lake County grew by 23,000 people or 2.4 percent, Utah County increased by 18,400 or 4.2 percent and Washington by 10,000 or 8.4 percent, according to the figures released Monday.
"We were taken off-guard by the magnitude (of the growth)," said Robert Spendlove, chairman of the Utah Population Estimates Committee. "But the numbers make sense."
Utah's births minus deaths equaled about 37,000 for the second year in a row, and the state had a net migration gain estimate at nearly 41,000.
Not since 1992 has Utah recorded such a high growth rate, which coincides with the last big economic expansion.
The population explosion "represents both a challenge and an opportunity to some extent," said Walt Busse, an employee of The Church of Latter-day Saints, who is a member of the committee. The committee includes both government representatives and people from the private sector.
"Tax resources are going up but so is the demand for it," Busse said.
Washington County showed the fastest growth rate.
"Retirees do not explain the growth in Washington County anymore," Spendlove said.
While many retirees continue to move to southern Utah, so do thousands of people from the more costly home markets of California and Las Vegas.
Those transplants have started to move up Interstate 15 to Iron County, too. Iron recorded an additional 2,472 people or an increase of 6.4 percent.
(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)