• Allen Turner

Census shows population dip since 2010 count


Columbus County’s population declined by 2.11 percent between April 2010 and July 2017, dropping from 58,107 to 55,936, a loss of 2,171 people, or 3.73 percent, according to estimates released last week by the U.S. Census Bureau.

From 2010 to 2016, populations increased for Tabor City and Whiteville, according to the federal government, while other towns lost population or, in the case of Boardman, remained the same. The U.S. Census Bureau did not provide municipal breakdowns for 2017, even though it did give countywide totals for the year.

According to the Census Bureau, 2010 to 2016 comparisons for county towns were as follows:

Tabor City and Whiteville showed growth, while Sandyfield, Brunswick, Bolton, Lake Waccamaw, Fair Bluff, Chadbourn and Cerro Gordo lost population. Boardman’s population was unchanged.

Tabor City increased from 4,015 in 2010 to 4,193 in 2016 (plus 178, or 4.45 percent), while Whiteville’s population grew from 5,377 in 2010 to 5,509 in 2016 (plus 132, or 2.4 percent).

Losing population were Sandyfield (442 down to 414, minus 28, or 6.76 percent), Brunswick (1,012 down to 990, minus 22, or 2.22 percent), Bolton (695 down to 660, minus 35, or 5.3 percent), Lake Waccamaw (1,468 down to 1,444, minus 24, or 1.66 percent), Fair Bluff (944 down to 905, minus 39, or 4.31 percent), Chadbourn (1,835 down to 1,769, minus 66, or 3.73 percent) and Cerro Gordo (211 down to 199, minus 12, or 6.03 percent). Only Boardman’s population was unchanged from 2010 to 2016 at 157.

The county’s population decreased from 57,972 in 2010 to 56,335 in 2016, a drop of 1,637.

The Census Bureau also published a 2017 population estimate for the county of 55,936, representing a drop of 399 from the 2016 estimate. According to federal government estimates, the county’s population dropped from 57,972 in 2010 to 56,335 in 2016, and the county 2017 population had decreased even more, to 55,936.

All numbers are estimates only. Official numbers will not be available until after the 2020 census is conducted.

Population numbers are extremely important to town, county and state governments because, besides the drawing of legislative and congressional districts based on population, distribution of various funds from higher levels of government also are based on those numbers.

Fair Bluff officials are especially worried because their lower 2016 population estimate from the feds was made before Hurricane Matthew decimated much of the town in October of that year.

No one knows the exact number of residents lost in Fair Bluff due to flooding after Matthew, but estimates have ranged from one third to one half of the total population.

Tabor City Town Manager Al Leonard called that town’s growth “remarkable” because the increase came without any annexations in the last decade. Tabor City should see an additional increase in its 2010 numbers because one new apartment complex is expected to open later this year and construction of another also is being considered.

In Fair Bluff, officials have annexed property outside town where a new apartment complex will be built, and they hope the facility will be filled with new residents who will be included in the 2010 census numbers.

Neighboring Brunswick County was the fastest-growing in the state, said the U.S. Census Bureau, with increases to 126,353 according to a 2016 estimate and 130,897 according to a 2017 estimate. Population in 66 percent of North Carolina’s counties grew from 2016 to 2017, according to the governor’s office. That compared to growth in 57 percent of counties nationwide.

Charlotte has gained 14.5 percent population since 2010 for 842,051 people total. Raleigh gained 13.6 percent in population for 458,880 people. Wilmington gained 10.4 percent population, for 117,505 total.

Nationally, Dallas-Ft. Worth was the fastest growing MSA, adding 146,000 people last year, or roughly 12,000 a month. Los Angeles County, Ca., remained stable with a population of 10.2 million, which is roughly the same population as the entire state of North Carolina.

“North Carolina is a wonderful place to live, work and start a business and raise a family, so it’s no surprise that our state continues to welcome new residents,” said Gov. Roy Cooper. “We want to encourage growth for all parts of North Carolina, urban and rural, from the mountains to the coast.”

(Deuce Niven of The Tabor-Loris Tribune contributed to this story.)


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