Did you know that Utah is home to some of the fastest population growth in the country? A few more fun facts: The state is expected to be the best place to live in 2032, houses the nation’s largest number of national parks, and is ranked fourth in the nation in overall well-being. It is also one of three states that has access to Google Fiber and an increasingly strong presence in the tech industry.
Things are coming up Utah.
The fundamentals driving this growth are Utah’s booming economy, low unemployment, and a very affordable quality of life. To understand how this state’s cities are thriving and learn more about how you can repeat the effects in your community, let’s look at the economic impactors and key data associated with its growth.
Utah Soars Above National Average
According to the U.S. census, Utah’s population expanded by 6.08 percent since 2010, reaching more than 2.9 million residents in 2014. This not only makes Utah the fourth fastest growing state in the nation, but also means Utah is experiencing population growth that is actually twice as fast compared to everywhere else, which (in the U.S.) has an average of 3.1 percent between 2010 and 2014.
Underpinning this growth are specific cities and communities in Utah that are responsible for the massive increase in residents.
Which Cities Are Growing the Fastest?
All of Utah’s fastest growing places are primarily driven by their thriving local economies, which feature a number of regional variations. In general, population growth is focused in Salt Lake County, home of Salt Lake City and northern Utah County.
Today, Utah County is growing even faster than Salt Lake County due to Utah’s Silicon Slopes tech boom, which is a major draw for new residents and is also helping fuel natural population growth.
Change in Population from 2000 to 2010 in Utah County
This map shows change in population from 2000 to 2010 in green — darker places represent areas with more growth. In Utah County, population grew by 40 percent from 2000 to 2010. The charts next to the map reveal that in 2014 the total population for this county included more than 540K residents compared to its population of 368K in 2000.
Change in Population from 2000 to 2010 in Salt Lake County
This map shows population changes in Salt Lake County from 2000 to 2010. Compared to Utah County’s 40 percent increase, Salt Like County only saw a 15 percent population increase resulting in roughly 1,063,670 residents in 2014 (compared to its total population of 898,387 in 2000).
The Silicon Slopes area responsible for much of the growth in Utah County features a wide variety of tech companies, such as Adobe, Novell and startups that have been valued in the billions of dollars. All of these businesses are providing quality jobs and bringing investment to the region.
Other big factors that have contributed to the success of Silicon Slopes include local universities like Brigham Young, which produces a good number of S.T.E.M. graduates, as well as government support for new tech initiatives, and tight tech clusters of innovation.
Employment by Job Location 2003–2013 in Utah County
These charts show growth in various employment industries in 2003 vs. 2013. Note that every industry on the charts below have experienced growth in Utah County.
The Number of Jobs from 2002–2013 & Household Income (2014) in Utah County
These charts show total job growth from 2002–2013 and median household income in 2014 for Utah County. Note the steady job increase and that the median household income is sitting around $60K.
Three other cities in this technology corridor — Saratoga Springs, Bluffdale and Herriman — were ranked as the second, third and fourth cities with the most growth from 2010 to 2014. The cities all grew between 27 and 35 percent.
Population: Historical Census Comparison & Summary Stats
These charts show change in population from 2000 to 2010 with ACS 2010–2014 summary statistics for Saratoga Springs, Bluffdale, and Herriman. Notice the extreme increase in population for all of these places.
Some outliers in Utah, such as Vineyard, have demonstrated truly explosive growth, with a 417 percent increase from 2014 to 2015. Vineyard, which lies in the Provo-Orem Metropolitan area, became an “instant city” as a result of new housing development, with its small population of 617 sailing towards 3,195.
Overall, this growth is seen as positive. With a number of companies complaining about a shortage of employees, these new residents are helping meet their needs. The unemployment rate in Utah currently stands at 3.4 percent, well below the national average.
Unemployment in Utah at the County Level
This map shows total unemployment in Utah at a county level. The total number of unemployed per capita for the state according to the data below is 3 percent. Darker areas on the map represent higher levels of unemployment. The highest unemployment per capita at the county level is 6 percent in Utah. The chart next to the map reveals that the number of jobs have steadily grown across the state since 2002.
Cities That Underline Utah’s Success
Other cities are also performing well in terms of population and economic growth.
Ogden, UT: Forbes has named Ogden the 6th fastest growing city in the entire United States. The city’s economy grew by over 7 percent in 2015 and featured a median salary of $57,000, which is above the national average. The city also has a young population, with a median age of 28.6 years old, and young professionals make up a disproportionately high amount of residents.
Generational Makeup & Household Income in Ogden, UT
These charts reveal more about the household income and generations in Ogden, UT. Note that most residents make between 50–75K and that there is a high millennial and Gen Z population living in Ogden.
South Jordan, UT: Recent research from the U.S. Census also shows that South Jordan is also one of the fastest growing cities in the nation with a population just over 50,000. South Jordan’s population grew 6 percent between 2014 and 2015, but that is already on top of 32 percent growth between 2010 and 2014. The city is closely situated to Salt Lake City and features plenty of amenities for residents.
Generational Makeup & Household Income in South Jordan, UT
These charts reveal more about the household income and generations in South Jordan, UT. Note that most residents make between 100k-150K and that there is a high Gen Z population living in South Jordan.
Although certain industries like tech are fueling growth in Utah, Ogden and South Jordan offer a very diverse range of employment opportunities. For instance, large employers in Ogden include the Internal Revenue Service, medical equipment makers, and Wayne State University. In South Jordan, the city’s chief employers are Merit Medical, Jordan School District, and
Employment Industry by Job Location 2013 in Ogden & South Jordan, UT
These charts highlight some of the major industries in both Ogden and South Jordan, UT.
Oil & Gas Boom Are Key Factors
Another contributor to the state’s population boom is the growth of oil and gas operations within the Uinta Basin, particularly in Duchesne County, Ballard, and Vernal. While these areas are seen as more sensitive to fluctuations in the oil and gas market, they were still one of Utah’s five fastest growing communities between 2010 and 2014.
The Impact of a Rapidly Growing Place
While all the growth in Utah is generally considered a positive trend, especially as evidenced by economic growth and appreciating real estate values, there have been some downsides.
For instance in some cities, schools have become overcrowded, forcing school districts to offer portable classrooms for students. In other areas, there are financial challenges associated with the infrastructure needed to support rapid population growth, such as roads, utilities, schools and other essential pieces of infrastructure. In addition, people who live along the I-15 corridor, such as in South Jordan, now suffer from longer and more crowded commutes.
On the upside, Utah still fares better than the rest of the nation on a variety of key metrics despite its rapid growth. For example, Ogden, one of the cities associated with the most rapid population growth in Utah, has the lowest income inequality in all of the U.S. with a population over 500,000. Low inequality may not only play a role in what makes Utah an attractive place to live, but also help boost the economy and improve social cohesion.
So, what’s next?
City planners, leaders and economic development directors can learn a lot from the thriving communities in Utah. While the recipe for success may vary per community, one thing is certain: Cities are stronger in places where data is being used to make decisions.
Using data, decision-makers can assess existing conditions, spot trends over time, and predict future growth.
It can also help offset some of the negative impacts of growth in areas where resources are limited or move places forward that have been waiting to flourish.
If you’d like to know how your city compares to some of the blossoming places in Utah, request a free mySidewalk trial. Explore basic demographic information, find answers using simple data analysis tools, and share insight easily with your peers.
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All of the data in this article was provided by and visualized in mySidewalk — a place where communities are understood and data is used to make more informed decisions.