New census estimates show Minot's population is still short of the more than 50,000 residents projected by local officials. But the 5.5 percent annual gain in the U.S. Census Bureau's July 2013 numbers released today reflect a population growing more rapidly than in the past.
Minot officials suspect the population has exceeded 50,000 based on utility use, specifically water and garbage, said city spokesman Bob Lindee. That data is supported by building permits, the number of newly occupied housing units and traffic as well as a North Dakota State University population study.
Lindee said the city looks at population somewhat differently than the Census Bureau, whose numbers count people who list Minot as their residences. The city's count encompasses temporary residents, who may live and work in Minot for multiple years and thus draw on city services.
Construction workers are busy Wednesday on a house in northwest Minot that is part of a new subdivision.
Minot's estimated growth since 2010 of 13.3 percent compares to the official 11.4 percent growth from 2000 to 2010 The Census Bureau plotted Minot's growth rate at 4 percent from 2010 to 2011, at 2 percent from 2011 to 2012 and now 5.5 percent.
North Dakota's population estimate in 2013 was 723,393, an increase of more than 50,000 since 2010.
The Census Bureau's July 2013 estimates show that many small towns often are growing or holding their own. Western North Dakota accounted for 98 percent of North Dakota's growth early in the decade. Now only about 64 percent of growth is in the west, said state census director Kevin Iverson, Bismarck.
"I call it the ripple effect of the Bakken. It's kind of a wave going out," he said.
The annual, estimated growth rates in the larger cities include 3.5 percent in Bismarck, 3.2 percent in Fargo and 2.6 percent in Grand Forks. In the oil patch, Williston grew by 13.9 percent and Dickinson by 5.5 percent.
Williston has moved up from North Dakota's ninth largest city to the sixth largest city since 2000. It is now gaining on West Fargo, another of North Dakota's faster growing cities, Iverson said.
West Fargo's estimated population is 29,878. Williston is at 20,850. However, the City of Williston has its own population formula developed by its engineers based on sewer usage that calculates residency at 25,000 to 30,000 and possibly as high as 35,000 people.
Towns in the oil patch commonly believe their populations are under-counted.
The July 2013 census numbers say Watford City's boom resulted in a one-year 32 percent increase in population. According to the Census Bureau, the small community made room for nearly 800 new residents. But according to Mayor Brent Sanford, the true number is much higher than that.
"We have a lot more people than that here," Sanford said of the 3,284 residents estimated by the Census Bureau. The city's own guess, based on wastewater usage, is about 6,500 residents. That would be 273 percent growth since 2010, not the 88 percent calculated by the Census Bureau. "
The city count also doesn't include hundreds of people living on the outskirts of town, some in recreational vehicle parks with transient populations.
"It's astounding growth. It's amazing growth," Sanford said. "But we still don't know our real number. It's a hard population to count."
"The biggest struggle we face in North Dakota with all our estimates is separating residents from nonresidents," Iverson said.
Using employment figures and other data, his office estimates about 40,000 nonresident workers in the state. The Census Bureau is soon to release 2012 numbers that will shed more light on the nonresident count and give the state a better base for determining how many temporary residents still exist, Iverson said. Given the state's steadily increasing birth rate and rise in school enrollments, there's evidence that workers are bringing families and settling in.
Also released today were July 1, 2013, estimates of the number of housing units for the nation, states and counties. Texas gained more units than any other state with 118,000, while North Dakota had the fastest rate of growth at 3.1 percent. Among counties with 5,000 or more housing units, Williams and Stark home to Williston and Dickinson in North Dakota led all counties in percent growth.