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Lancaster County's population is growing, Census estimates show

For refugees, a day to celebrate

Spectators watch a performance at World Refugee Day in Lancaster Square in this file photo from 2011.

Lancaster County’s moderate population growth rate could put it over the 550,000 mark by 2021, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2018 estimates released today.

The county grew to 543,557 people last year, an increase of 2,503 fueled almost equally by immigration and the natural increase of more births than deaths.

Lancaster County experienced a 0.5% growth rate, making it the 13th fastest growing county in Pennsylvania. Its growth rate ticked down from 0.7% the previous year.

Most neighboring counties had faster growth, and Lebanon County, — population 141,314 — led the way. Lebanon’s one-year growth rate of 1.3% was the strongest in the state. Meanwhile, Berks, Chester and York counties all grew at 0.6% last year. Dauphin tied Lancaster with a 0.5% increase.

Lancaster County once again saw more people leave than move in. The county had a net loss of 899 people through domestic migration.

Lancaster County’s growth came from births (6,864) exceeding deaths (5,135) and by an influx of 1,688 immigrants.

Out-migration needs study

James Cowhey, executive director of the Lancaster County Planning Commission, said the moderation of population gains could extend the life of the county’s designated growth areas, which are places with the infrastructure for development.

“The slower growth rate and out-migration of what we assume are individuals in the workforce is of concern, I think, and in need of further analysis,” Cowhey said.

Heather Valudes, community impact director with the Lancaster Chamber, said that, if not for childbirth and immigration, "we would be in population decline at a time when businesses have heightened concerns about their workforce needs and demands."

"For Lancaster County’s continued economic success, it is critical that we retain and attract talent to meet the needs of our community today and into the future," she said.

Since the 2010 census, Lancaster County has grown by 24,111 people. The 4.6% increase makes it the fifth fastest growing county in Pennsylvania since 2010.

Lancaster County remains the sixth most populous Pennsylvania county, behind Philadelphia (1,584,138), Allegheny (1,218,452), Montgomery (828,604), Bucks (628,195) and Delaware (564,751).

Montgomery added 4,042 residents, the most of any county last year.

Pennsylvania, population 12,807,060, added 16,613 people last year, an anemic 0.13 percent increase.

Of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, 38 lost population last year. Allegheny County, home to Pittsburgh, was the biggest loser, shedding 2,204 residents.

Pennsylvania’s smallest county, Cameron, north of State College, lost population at a 2.8% rate, the fastest decline in the state.