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These counties saw the biggest population change in 2022

New Census data show suburban areas and smaller metros gained the most residents last year.
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Story at a glance

  • Maricopa County, Ariz., home to Phoenix, saw the largest population growth in 2022.

  • Six counties in Texas and three in Florida rounded out the top ten areas with the largest gains in population. 

  • Despite being the most populous county in the country, Los Angeles, Calif., experienced the largest population decline. 

The latest U.S. Census Bureau population estimates show Americans are flocking to suburban areas and small- and mid-sized metropolitans in the South and West. 

The findings come as the country eases back into routines more closely resembling pre-pandemic times.

“Some of the urban counties in New York and San Francisco that saw significant domestic outmigration and population decline in 2021 had population growth in 2022,” said Christine Hartley, assistant division chief for estimates and projections in the Census Bureau’s population division, in a statement

“Similarly, many counties with large universities saw their populations fully rebound this year as students returned.” 

Overall, populations in suburban counties and small and midsize cities grew by 0.7 percent last year, a Wall Street Journal analysis of the data found. 

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Meanwhile, more immigrants moving in, more babies being born and fewer deaths helped slow  population declines in larger cities.

Whitman County, Wash., home to Washington State University, was the fastest growing county in the nation from 2021 to 2022, while half of the top ten fastest growing counties were in Texas, data show. 

Counties in Florida, Georgia and North Carolina were also among the fastest growing in the country. 

But Maricopa County, Ariz., saw the largest population growth, adding 56,831 new residents in 2022, a gain driven by domestic migration, according to Census data. The county is home to the state’s capital, Phoenix. 

Six counties in Texas also saw some of the greatest population gains. Collectively, Harris, Collin, Denton, Fort Bend, Bexar and Montgomery counties gained 209,182 residents. 

Three counties in Florida — Polk, Lee and Hillsborough — were among the top ten that saw the largest population growth as well. Lee County is home to Fort Myers, and Hillsborough is home to Tampa.

The United States’s most populous counties are increasingly located in the South and West, Census figures show, a trend that reflects long standing regional population shifts, according to the Bureau. 

Los Angeles County, Calif., experienced the largest population decline of any county in 2022, losing 90,704 residents. Despite this, it remains the most populous county in the country, followed by Cook County, Ill., and Harris County, Texas. 

Other counties that saw the greatest numeric declines in population included Cook County, Queens County, New York, and Kings County, New York. 

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