After a decade of growing faster than any other U.S. state, Utah isn’t taking a pause.
New projections from demographers at the University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute — the state’s go-to think tank these days for population projections — indicate the Beehive State’s growth rate will ease only gradually as the next four decades unfold, adding 2.2 million more people by 2060 or so.
Here’s a glimpse of what all that growth could look like:
Up, up, up
Utah will jump from 3.3 million residents today to 5.5 million in 2060 — a leap of 66%. So, imagine two-thirds more people in the state within 40 years.
Three of the next four decades will involve adding 500,000 new residents to the state — and that actually represents a slower growth rate than the 18.4% seen from 2010 to 2020, which led the country. That rate will gradually ratchet down as the decades unfold, while also keeping the pace brisk.
Growth in population is projected to be roughly 18.1% over the 2020s; 14.5% in the 2030s; 11.9% in the 2040s; and 9.7% in the 2050s. On average, that means Utah’s population will expand a steady 1.3% every year over nearly two generations.
Demographers foresee the state surpassing the 4 million mark a little more than 10 years from now, between 2032 and 2033, then topping 5 million sometime after 2050.
In-migration takes over
Utah will see a crucial shift in 40 years in what fuels its population growth, away from natural increases as births exceed deaths to primarily in-migration, as more people are drawn to the state by its economy and retirement locales.
That’s a function of its steadily declining birthrate and an aging population and part of national trends, for sure, but also of the impressive number of jobs its economy is expected to create in the coming decades.
The latest projections are that Utah could see influxes of between 30,000 and 40,000 residents annually through 2030, maintaining today’s in-migration pace, which analysts say has been elevated by pandemic-related factors. After that, the yearly influx is likely to ease to between 25,000 and 35,000 people.
Four counties — Cache, Iron, Sanpete and Utah — will grow primarily through natural increases through 2060, thanks to their younger populations of university students. Davis, Duchesne and Uintah will start out that way, but gradually see in-migration eclipse internal growth by the mid-2040s.
Twenty-two of Utah’s 29 counties — including Salt Lake County — will draw mostly on new residents coming in from the get-go to fuel their growth between now and 2060.
Big gets bigger
Nearly 83% of Utah’s population growth over the next 40 years will fall in five counties — Salt Lake, Utah, Davis, Weber and Washington — and it will leave them transformed.
Utah County is expected to double in population, adding 674,000 residents to reach 1.33 million by 2060. Salt Lake County won’t gain as much — 483,000 residents — but it will keep its position as the state’s most populous, at 1.7 million.
Washington County, in Utah’s southwest corner, will see the largest percentage gain, more than doubling in population to reach 465,000 people. Wasatch and Tooele counties will double in size as well, growing to 81,000 and 149,000, respectively.
Of Utah’s 29 counties, only Millard County is expect to lose people over the next four decades, with a decline of about 10%.
More households, but smaller
Utah is projected to have twice the number of households it does now within 40 years, going from 1.1 million today to 2.2 million.
Salt Lake and Utah counties will add 290,000 households each and by 2060, the two counties will hold over half of all households statewide. Add in Davis, Weber and Tooele counties and the Wasatch Front will have 70% of all Utah households.Every Utah county will add households, according to projections — even Millard County, with 800.
But the average household in Utah will be decidedly smaller in years to come, part of a broader and decades-long trend of declining birthrates and fewer marriages. In fact, nine of the state’s 10 fastest-growing counties will also see their average household size fall.
In Utah County, for example, household sizes will drop from 3.51 members today to 2.75 in 40 years, while, in Salt Lake County, they’ll dip from 2.89 now to 2.34 in 2060.
Statewide, average household sizes will decline by half a person, from 3 now to 2.5 in 2060.
Older, on average
Utah has traditionally been a relatively young state, known for lots of kids, but that is changing, too.
Its share of folks ages 65 or older will nearly double, from 11.5% of the total population now to 22.9% by 2060, according to projections. The share of its population under 18, meanwhile, will shrink from 28.9% this year to 20.3%.
That will lift Utah’s median age by an astonishing 10 years, from 32.1 to 42.1 by 2060.
Lots more jobs
After years of record economic growth, the Beehive State has about 2.1 million jobs today and scores high for the spread of those opportunities across a diverse range of industries. And, much like its overall population, that jobs base is expected to grow by about two-thirds in the next 40 years, to more than 3.4 million.
Construction, professional and technical services and the health sector are expected to be the biggest gainers, projected to add 207,110, 195,147 and 184,980 jobs, respectively, over four decades. Only farming and utilities are expected to lose significant employment over that time.
While Utah County is expected to add more people, Salt Lake County will add more employment, projections suggest — with nearly 200,000 new jobs by 2060.
Salt Lake, Utah, Davis, Weber and Washington counties will account for about 88% of all job growth in that time.