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Growth rates may be declining in Utah, but it will still add millions in the coming decades

The Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute anticipates Utah’s population will also skew older in 40 years

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Housing developments along 400 South in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022.

Despite projecting a slower growth rate in the coming decades, researchers with the University of Utah still predict a population surge over the next 40 years.

Utah saw the largest growth rate of any state from 2010 to 2020, according to census data, adding 18% more residents to its population over the decade. By 2060, the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute anticipates another 66%.

The next few decades will also see a major demographic shift as the current population ages and the state’s fertility rate declines.

“Overall, the age 65 and older population is going to increase from about 12% of the total population to about 23% in 2060,” the institute’s demographic research director Mallory Bateman said. “That’s a big shift for our youngest state in the nation considering the different implications that might have in all kinds of realms of policy and decision-making.”

Analyzing current trends and projected events, such as coal power plant closures and another Olympics held in Salt Lake City, researchers at the institute expect Salt Lake and Utah counties to account for the most growth – more than half of the state’s total growth.

Those two counties will also see the most new jobs, accounting for two-thirds of the growth in the state. Construction, professional and technical services and health will add the most new jobs as manufacturing is likely to become a smaller part of Utah’s economy.

“This is an important shift in the economy,” economist Max Backlund said. “Historically we’ve been a goods-producing, manufacturing type of economy … You can see now that there’s more of a shift toward these professional and technical services industries,” which include jobs such as engineers, accountants and lawyers.

That’s not to say other counties won’t also see impressive growth, though most of the growth will still be centered in northern Utah. Davis County could add more than 200,000 residents, Weber County more than 100,000 and Cache County just under 100,000.

“Those neighboring counties to the Wasatch Front, so places like Tooele and Wasatch that have been fast-growing counties, traditionally continue to see strong growth,” Bateman said. “They are projected to almost double their population.”

Though Salt Lake and Utah counties will see the greatest population growth by number, Southwest Utah – Beaver, Garfield, Iron, Kane and Washington counties – has the highest growth rate.

The area will more than double in population by adding a projected 330,000 new residents with Washington County accounting for more than three-quarters of that population.

The projections could change – the institute creates a new projection every four years – under significant circumstances, such as major policy changes or investments or even surging birth rates like another baby boom.

“What we project is based upon the trends we’re seeing, the patterns that seem most likely what would occur,” researcher Michael Hogue said, “but there’s no way to predict the course of the odd event.”

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