State estimates show Utah's population continues to grow

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — New population estimates show Utah is continuing to grow, but demographers say the state's well-known high birth rate isn't the only factor driving the increase.

The state's population increased by 59,045 people from 2016 to 2017, according to the Utah Population Committee estimates made public Wednesday. Utah has a total population of about 3.1 million.

Accounting for 46 percent of state's population growth was net migration, which increased by 2,728 people from the previous year. In total, 26,989 people moved to Utah from somewhere else.

Most of the people are coming from nearby states, but the number also includes those coming from abroad, committee head Pam Perlich told The Salt Lake Tribune. Perlich is the director of demographics at the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute at the University of Utah.

"It's the highest we've been since 2006," Perlich said. "As the economy is growing, it is bringing people to the state for economic and educational opportunities."

Natural increase, the number of births minus the deaths, made up the rest of the state's growth at 54 percent, which is down from historical averages of about 66 percent. The number of births has been in decline for the past nine years, but it remains high.

"Natural increase is still strong. It's still the major share of growth, but it's been going down steadily since the onset of the Great Recession," Perlich said.

While federal data indicates that Utah has the country's top fertility rate, Perlich said there are several possible contributing factors to the recent decline. Fertility rates for teenage women have collapsed, and the rates for women in their 20s have dropped, she said.

"You see people delaying having children until their 30s, or late 20s. And when you start later, generally you have fewer," Perlich said.

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