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Utah is the fastest-growing state, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Tuesday, and not just because it tops the nation in baby-making.
The Beehive State led a surge among key states in the South and West as its population mushroomed by 2.03 percent between July 1, 2015, and July 1, 2016, pushing past the 3 million mark to reach 3,051,217 residents.
Nevada was second fastest-growing state, at 1.95 percent, followed by Idaho (1.83 percent), Florida (1.82 percent) and Washington (1.78 percent).
Officials attributed the growth to a blend of natural in-state population increases (its birthrate, though dipping, continues to lead the nation) and an ongoing spike in net in-migration.
While below growth rates seen before the Great Recession, Utah's 2.03 percent jump represented an addition of 60,585 people, with nearly 42 percent of that number made up of newcomers moving to the state.
"That's an amazing thing for Utah," said Pam Perlich, director of demographics at the University of Utah's Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, describing it as part of a three-year "crescendo" in in-migration, driven partly by a stellar economy.
"This is not a rip-roaring, booming rate of growth," Perlich said. "This is a moderate, sustainable rate of growth that is kind of the new normal coming out of this recession."
Ten states saw net gains that were larger, the Census Bureau said.
Utah has now vaulted ahead of Mississippi, Arkansas and Kansas to become the 31st most populous U.S. state.
A separate population analysis by state officials reveals that Utah County gained more residents than Salt Lake County last year and that Washington County is seeing a return of in-migration by retirees, after a post-recession lull.
"Those are some very pervasive indications that we're back on a growth path in Utah, again," Perlich said, "not a booming rate of growth but sustainable growth."
Just a year ago, Utah had the nation's sixth-fastest growth rate, at 1.75 percent.
Years of in-migration had lifted North Dakota to the fastest-growing spot for the past four years, but an oil bust slowed its growth rate to 0.15 percent with an outflow of migrants, the Census Bureau said.
Taken together, Western states' populations expanded by 1.08 percent and Southern states, by 1.06 percent. States in the Northeast, by contrast, rose by 0.04 percent and, in the Midwest, by 0.15 percent.
Eight states, including New York, Illinois and Pennsylvania, lost population.
The U.S. population as a whole went up by 2.2 million people over the same period to reach 323,127,513, the Census Bureau said, a gain of 0.7 percent.