Oregon’s population is growing faster than most of the country, new census data show, as tens of thousands more people move into the state than out each year.
Lane County appears to be growing nearly as fast as the state, driven largely by Eugene’s robust job market.
More than 4.1 million people called Oregon home on July 1, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates released last week. The state added nearly 57,000 residents between July 2016 and this past July, while its 1.4 percent growth rate during that time was the ninth fastest of any state and nearly double the nation’s growth rate.
The census estimates don’t include city and county data, but estimates released this month by Portland State University’s Population Research Center show Lane County’s population growth accelerating along with the state’s, spurred largely by growth in and around Eugene.
The concentration of growth in Eugene “means we’re an economic engine for the county as well as the city itself,” Eugene Mayor Lucy Vinis said Tuesday. “That’s reflective of the fact we’re creating jobs and attracting people here, both for the amenities and because of the economic growth.”
The county added 4,660 residents between July 2016 and 2017, crossing the 370,000 mark, the population research center found. Lane County’s annual growth rate has ticked up for six straight years.
Meanwhile, Eugene’s population reached nearly 168,000 this year, according to the center. The city accounted for about 2,000 of the new Lane County residents. However, the figure could be higher if urban areas adjacent to the city limits were included, such as the neighborhoods in the Santa Clara and River Road areas, and the south hills, which are within Eugene’s urban growth boundary but aren’t annexed into the city.
Springfield’s population rose by an estimated 500 residents between last year and this summer. None of Lane County’s 10 smaller incorporated cities added more than 100 residents — Florence and Junction City each added about 65, the population center estimated.
People moving to Oregon accounted for more than 80 percent of the population increase, as opposed to births outpacing deaths, the census report found.
But the influx of residents also highlights rising housing market concerns in Eugene and the state’s other fast-growing urban centers. It’s part of a nationwide trend coming out of the Great Recession that has seen employment and population growth flourish in urban areas, while stagnating in rural areas, according to Josh Lehner, an economist with the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis.
Many new residents come for higher-wage jobs, bolstering the region’s economic outlook, but they also buy homes, which can reduce the number of homes for sale and drive up housing prices.
In August, the average sale price for a Lane County home was $313,500, the highest monthly average ever reported by the Regional Multiple Listing Service, which tracks housing sales.
The county’s housing inventory — the amount of time to sell all the houses on the market at the current pace of sales — has hovered at or below two months for two years. Six months generally is considered a healthy market, while anything lower puts buyers at a disadvantage since the competition for properties spurs offers above the asking rate.
“I think we are all very concerned about our housing shortage at all levels,” Vinis said.
City councilors in Eugene and Springfield are considering steps to encourage affordable housing construction, from small townhouses and cottage developments to secondary units on properties where a home has been built.
The population data “just underscores the need” to find solutions to the housing crunch, Vinis said.
Eugene has added nearly 10,000 residents during the past five years, equal to a roughly 6 percent growth rate during that time and higher than Lane County’s 4.6 percent growth rate. Junction City and Creswell had higher population growth rates during that time — 11.6 percent and 8.4 percent, respectively — though net population gains were only about 400 to 500 people for each.
The Western United States was well represented among the fastest growing parts of the country between 2016 and this year. Idaho led the nation, according to census estimates, followed by Nevada, Utah and Washington state.
Follow Elon Glucklich on Twitter @EGlucklich . Email email@example.com .