Maricopa County added more new residents than any county in the country last year, continuing a trend of Maricopa County growth that local officials attribute to the area’s opportunity and affordability.
The Census Bureau said Thursday the county added 58,246 people from July 2020 to July 2021, overtaking Collin County in Texas and bringing Maricopa County’s estimated population to just under 4.5 million.
The Phoenix area as a whole saw the second largest population increase of the year, with Phoenix-Mesa-Chandler trailing only Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, said the office.
“Arizona and Maricopa County have shown strong growth over an extended period, not just a quarter here or there,” said Garrick Taylor, spokesman for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “Census data indicates that the state and area of Maricopa County is particularly attractive for transplants.”
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Most of the population gains last year came from people moving to Arizona: Of the state’s 98,330 new residents, only 832 were attributable to ‘natural change’, or the difference between births and deaths , according to the census. The others were the result of migrations, mainly from other states.
Many newcomers are crossing the border from California, experts said.
“This place is becoming San Francisco – I mean, there are so many people from California coming here. It’s just, it’s amazing,” said Andrew Holm, program manager for Hague Partners- 72SOLD.
Sindy Ready, state treasurer of the Arizona Association of Realtors, said she was not surprised at the increase in population, given the “great weather” and ideal climate for people who love the outdoors.
Taylor pointed to the state’s economy, which he said is “not only strong, but has proven particularly resilient,” recovering jobs “almost faster than any other part of the country” after the pandemic. He also noted plans for high-tech factories and car manufacturing that have been unveiled for the valley.
Another advantage for the state is the cost of housing, which Holm says is significantly cheaper than in other major cities. But this has a downside: the demand for housing drives up prices.
“It’s positive and negative,” Holm said. “It just depends on where you look and how you look at it and who is affected.”
Ready said that while population growth is a good thing in his business, newcomers are finding that there aren’t enough homes or rental properties available for the number of people moving in.
“Just the battle of being able to get into a property right now because there are so many people who want to be here,” Ready said.
That may be one reason neighboring Pinal and Yavapai counties both saw increased growth rates in 2021, experts said.
Although they didn’t add nearly the number of people that Maricopa County did, their growth rates were considerably higher, according to the Census Bureau. Pinal County’s population jumped 4.6% and Yavapai County’s grew 2.2% in 2021, compared to Maricopa County’s 1.3% for the year.
“These people are willing to go to these places because they can get a new home on the outskirts for a lot less,” Holm said. “The problem is that builders just can’t keep up with demand.”
Taylor said advanced manufacturing is “in vogue” right now and Pinal County, which has “a proud heritage of being a heavy agricultural area of the state,” is now attracting big companies like Nikola Motor. Co. and Kohler.
All but four counties — Apache, Coconino, Greenlee and La Paz — saw population increases last year, according to the census. Driven in large part by Maricopa gains, the state’s overall population grew by 98,330 people last year, to just under 7.28 million on July 1.
The Census Bureau in December Arizona-rated as the third fastest growing state last year, behind Texas and Florida.
The increases can strain everything from water resources and state infrastructure to, as Holm notes, the ability to get a reservation at a good restaurant without weeks of waiting. But all the experts agreed that too much business is a good problem to have.
“Rarely do people snatch stakes and uproot their lives, move somewhere with few opportunities. Instead, they seek job opportunities and other economic benefits,” Taylor said. “And Arizona can deliver that in spades.”
Story by Alexia Stanbridge, Cronkite News