Every late March, the U.S. census releases their new population estimates for counties. So, I causally checked in to see how the Tompkins County numbers were doing. The county typically shows a modest addition of a few hundred each year – from 2010 to 2012, the estimated addition was 990 residents, from 101,564 to 102,554, which if carried out evenly, it would be an expected 4.9% increase for the decade (and roughly on par with the 5.2% in the 2000s).
I was a little taken aback when I saw the numbers for this year. For one thing, somewhere along the way, they revised 2012’s number up to 102,713. For another thing, this year’s number is a relative spike in the trajectory – 103,617. In addition of 904 from the revised 2012 figure, and 1,063 from the original 2012 estimate. So, the change from 2012 to 2013 is about as much or more than the gain of the previous two years. Using the 2013 figure and extrapolating the three years’ estimates out to the end of the decade, the county would be projected to grow 6.74% to about 108,400 residents in the year 2020.
In many states, this would not seem an overly impressive figure. But it is worth noting that this is economically-depressed upstate New York. Last year, the only counties that were growing faster than Tompkins (as a percentage) were Jefferson County (Watertown, with the economic engine of Fort Drum) and Saratoga County (Saratoga Springs, with the massive Global Foundries computer chip plant in suburban Malta). With the 2013 figures, Tompkins County moves into the second-place slot, behind Jefferson County (I note that the population estimates gave Jefferson a population decrease this year; the army base up there is expected to see a loss of 1500 to 2000 soldiers as it loses a brigade over the next few years, as part of army cutbacks). I’m also leaving out downstate counties/boroughs – Kings County/Brooklyn Borough is projected to have added 88,000 people for 3.5% growth since 2010. Almost all of Tompkins’s population, in three years. New York City gains ever-more reason to view it and its boroughs as the center of the world. On the other end of the scale, Schoharie (sko-hair-ee) County has the biggest estimated percent loss, at -2.8%. Schoharie is a rural county just west of Albany; it suffered a major hit from Hurricane Irene.
Echoing my comments from last year, estimates should be used with caution, as they don’t always reflect the true population. From the housing units perspective, using the number of 2.29 residents per unit estimated for 2008-2012, one gets justification for about 395 more units of housing for the past year, or about 897 units since 2010. I’m cautious about using these number as much more than curiosities, but they’re intriguing, and seem to bode well for the health of this county. Even when the jobs numbers aren’t.