Portland Metro curbed population growth in 2021, census estimates show

Population growth in the Portland area came to a halt in 2021 after a slow period since its mid-2010s boom, according to new data from the US Census Bureau.

Metro Portland – defined as Multnomah, Washington, Clackamas, Columbia and Yamhill counties and Clark and Skamania counties in Washington – saw its population drop 0.2% from July 2020 to July 2021, to around 2 511,612 inhabitants. That translates to a loss of about 4,618 people, according to new estimates released Thursday.

The relatively small decline is at odds with other estimates. Portland State University Population Research Center faculty member Charles Rynerson said the center’s own estimates for 2021 showed a slight increase in population.

But both are a far cry from the rapid population growth of recent decades. From around 2000 to 2018, the region gained an average of 30,000 inhabitants per year.

“The story is basically, there was definitely less growth last year due to more deaths and fewer births,” he said. “And there has been very little international, national or local migration, which is partly attributable to COVID, since people couldn’t even get into the country.”

Migration, both interstate and internationally, has been the primary source of new residents to the state, Rynerson said. The same is true for the Portland area.

“In general, we gain more people than we lose due to net internal migration in Oregon and Multnomah County, but these estimates indicate that we lost more than we gained,” did he declare.

Metropolitan population numbers turned negative as recently as 2010, according to census figures, when the Great Recession temporarily dampened growth. He quickly bounced back.

While there are anecdotal reports of people moving from large metropolitan areas to more spacious suburbs and rural communities during the pandemic, Rynerson said this year’s census data doesn’t provide that kind of information.

“There’s always a lot of turnover in the population,” he said. 2021 “has been an unusual year, and things may have stabilized after July, or some people may have even temporarily moved away. So it’s hard to say what these estimates really mean in the long term.

Meanwhile, central Oregon continued to experience rapid population growth, among the fastest in the nation.

The Bend metro area in central Oregon, which includes all of Deschutes County, saw its population grow 2.7% — the 13th fastest growth among the nation’s 355 metro areas — to about 204,801 inhabitants. That’s an increase of about 5,446 people in the year ending July 2021, according to census figures.

Neighboring Crook County, home to fast-growing Prineville, has seen the fastest growth of Oregon’s 36 counties. From 2020 to 2021, the county saw its population increase by 3.3% to 25,739, an increase of 816 residents.

The Census Bureau updates population estimates every year using the most recent decennial census — in this case, 2020 counts — as a baseline. Annual population estimates are projected using vital records such as birth and death certificates, IRS tax returns, housing counts, building permits, and school enrollments .

–Kristine de Leon, [email protected], @deleonkrist