Utah's population is slightly -- very slightly -- more Mormon in 2009 than it was last year, according to the latest demographic estimates.
The LDS share of the population rose by 0.0005 percent. That may seem miniscule, but it marks the first time since at least the late 1980s that the percentage did not decline, according to a Salt Lake Tribune analysis of LDS membership numbers provided to the state for demographic purposes.
Overall, members of the LDS Church make up 60.4 percent of the state's population.
University of Utah demographer Pam Perlich downplayed the trend reversal saying the share of the LDS population is "basically flat." Though she agrees with state demographer Juliette Tennert that the economic downturn has a large impact on these statistics.
During boom years, people move to the state for jobs, and many of these new Utahns are not Mormon, leading to a slow yet steady religious diversification. But in times of recession, this growth from outside the state slows. This year, the Utah Population Estimates Committee says only 1,500 people moved into the state, and as a result there are slightly more new Mormons than non-Mormons.
"People are kind of frozen in place right now because of the recession," said Perlich, who called it a "blip."
She predicts that when the economy recovers, the percentage of Utahns who are Mormon will continue to inch downward.
She also said these estimates are the most likely to be statistically off, since they come nine years after the last official Census count.
The population estimates are based on the LDS membership numbers, school enrollments, tax information and other sources. They mark the statistical best guess by state leaders. The committee will revise its estimates after the Census completes its 2010 count.
In 2009, the most Mormon county continues to be Morgan (80.3 percent), while the least Mormon county is Grand (26.2 percent).
More than half of the state's LDS population lives in either Salt Lake County or Utah County. Salt Lake County is 50.3 percent LDS, dipping 0.3 percent in the past year while Utah County is now 76.8 percent LDS rising 0.3 percent. That marks the first increase for Utah County since 1994.
The state's population is 2.8 million, while the number of Mormons has now reached 1.7 million.