More people moving into Utah than out of it
Census • ’13 rebound in immigration shows economy is recovering.
Published: January 23, 2014 12:40PM
Updated: January 23, 2014 10:01PM

After years of near-zero net immigration into Utah during and after the recession, more people are once again moving into the state than out of it.

Utah had an estimated net in-migration of 9,920 people in 2013, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates released Thursday.

An estimated net of 5,567 of them came from other states, and a net of 4,353 came from other countries.

“That’s a very positive indicator that we are back on track” with an improving economy that is starting to attract domestic and international immigrants, said Pam Perlich, senior research economist for the University of Utah.

That net in-migration is nothing like the 25,000 to 30,000 Utah was attracting in boom times before the recession, “but that wasn’t sustainable anyway,” Perlich said.

“This is kind of a slow, steady and manageable population growth combined with a slow, steady, manageable economic growth, too,” she said, adding that it shows the effects of the recession have bottomed out.

The net in-migration means Utah “should use up the excess inventory of housing” created in slow economic times, Perlich said. “It should provide more demand for housing.”

The 4,343 person international net immigration does not mean Utah is attracting a high number of undocumented immigrants — which is sometimes claimed in political battles. In fact, Perlich said, “As small as that number is, we really don’t have large flows of undocumented people coming into the state right now.”

That’s because, in part, those international immigration numbers include people who return here from LDS Church missions abroad. Their large number plus a sizeable group of foreign students mean that the rest of the international in-migration — including by the undocumented — is relatively small, she said.

The components of state growth released Thursday come after the Census last month issued estimated 2013 population for each of the states, but did not break down the growth into immigration and ‘natural growth’ from having more births than deaths. As reported previously, Utah grew by an estimated 46,001 people in 2013 to a total population of 2,900,872, making it the second-fastest growing state. North Dakota, with an oil boom, had the nation’s fastest growth rate.

Most of Utah’s increased population — 35,965 — came from “natural growth” of more births than deaths. Utah has had the nation’s highest birth rate for years, largely from the influence of the LDS Church and its large families.