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Population estimates show both expansion and contraction

Williams County led the nation in growth rate in the latest estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau today.

Williams grew its population 5.9% between July 2017 and July 2018, while Ward County’s population fell 1%, according to the estimates. Among counties of 20,000 population or more, Williams also led the nation, with its oil-boom growth of 57.8% from 2010 to 2018 boosting its population to 35,350. Ward County grew 9.8% over that time, leaving the population at an estimated 67,744 in July 2018.

Minot’s micropolitan area, consisting of Ward, Renville and McHenry counties, experienced a population drop of 817 residents or 1.1%. The estimated 2018 population is 75,934. Still, since 2010, the population has grown by 6,397 or 9.2%.

John Zakian, Minot’s resilience program manager, said one must be cautious about estimates because there are limits to accuracy when numbers are based solely on statistical data, which are better for general forecasting and planning.

The City of Minot has built a considerable amount of housing since the 2010 census and it has far more jobs available than job applicants, he said. Both are signs of growth.

“It’s still reasonably optimistic to believe that, even though it might be showing a downward trend, there’s still a strong likelihood that if we do an aggressive census count next year, that will still go over the 50,000 mark,” Zakian said. “If we can hit the 50,000 in the next year’s census, it has multiple benefits.”

Minot’s most recent population estimate in July 2017 was 47,822.

The new estimates show Ward County gained 6,069 residents since 2010, despite estimated losses over the past three years that eliminated nearly 3,000 residents. The estimated loss in the year ended June 30, 2018, was 650 residents.

Ward County’s natural increase from births exceeding deaths was smaller in 2018 than in 2017 but still a gain. The losses came from out-migration, which was estimated at 1,288 people in 2018, compared to 1,783 people in 2017.

“In the Minot region, we are showing out-migration in 2018,” said Kevin Iverson, North Dakota state census director. “The good news is it’s lower than the previous two years, so we seem to be turning the corner a little bit. I think it’s going to appear, when we look at these numbers next year, they are going to be neutral or positive.”

Iverson said only nine counties gained through in-migration in the 2018 estimates. He expects the situation will look more positive going forward, as more current data replaces statistics from late 2017, which is the economic period affecting the 2018 numbers.

He added population estimating becomes more difficult the farther from an official census. He said 2009 estimates showed an error rate of 3 to 9 percent from actual census numbers in 2010.

The 2018 estimates showed 14 of North Dakota’s 53 counties gained population, led by 7.1% growth in McKenzie County. Its population of 13,632 left it too small to be considered in the national rankings, but it has grown faster than Williams – as much as 114.4% since 2010.

In sheer numbers, Cass County was North Dakota’s biggest growth county with 3,579 new residents, or 2% growth, followed by Williams with 1,955 new residents. North Dakota netted 4,901 new residents between 2017 and 2018.

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