The Durham-Chapel Hill metropolitan area grew by 1.5 percent to nearly 560,000 people last year, making it the state’s fourth-fastest-growing metro area, according to recent U.S. Census Bureau estimates.
The Durham-Chapel Hill metro area, which consists of Durham, Orange, Chatham and Person counties, trailed only the Raleigh, Charlotte and Wilmington metro areas in the year ending last June 30.
From 2010 to 2016, the Durham-Chapel Hill area saw the third-fastest growth of any metropolitan area in the state: 10.9 percent. That growth rate trailed only Raleigh (15.3 percent) and Charlotte (11.6 percent).
That rapid growth makes regional planning more important, especially in regard to improving transportation, said Matt Gladdek, director of policy and planning at Downtown Durham Inc.
The greater Durham area has seen some of the sharpest growth in the state.
The N.C. Office of State Budget and Management predicts Durham County will grow by 25,000 people every five years through 2035, Gladdek said in an email.
“This growth isn’t slowing down, and we need to make sure we are planning and building for growth where we want it, and where it makes the most sense environmentally,” he said.
The 2016 estimates make Durham-Chapel Hill the fifth-largest metro area in the state.
The Charlotte and Raleigh metro areas are the two biggest by far with 2.5 million and 1.3 million people, respectively.
Durham also trails the Greensboro-High Point metro area (756,000) and Winston-Salem (662,000).
While urban centers such as Raleigh, Charlotte and Durham grow, the census bureau’s numbers reveal a rural-urban divide in terms of population change. Since 2010, 48 counties have lost population, mostly in rural areas.
Findings from the census report:
▪ The Durham-Chapel Hill metro area’s growth was led by Chatham County, which has grown 13.8 percent to 72,000 residents since 2010. Durham County has grown 13.4 percent to 306,000 people. Orange County has grown 5.7 percent to nearly 141,800 people.
▪ Person County is the only county to have its population decrease in the Durham-Chapel Hill metro area since 2010. Its population fell by 0.4 percent to 39,284.
▪ Mecklenburg County remained the most populous county in North Carolina at an estimated 1,054,835 residents last July 1. Wake was a close second at 1,046,791.
▪ The northeastern part of the state has seen the largest losses since 2010, led by Northampton County at an estimated 9.5 percent decrease. In total, 11 counties have lost 5 percent or more of their population since 2010 with all but one of them north and east of Rocky Mount.