Fayette’s population expected to top 168,000 within 30 years

Fayette County’s population is projected to increase by more than 60,000 residents within the next 30 years, according to the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC).

Fayette’s estimated 2010 population of 106,000 is forecast to swell to 168,500 residents by 2040.

Fayette’s increase pales next to Coweta County’s future numbers. By 2040, Coweta is expected to be home to nearly a quarter-million people, the ARC predicts.

That increase of 59 percent for Fayette would essentially mirror that of the 20-county metro Atlanta area that is expected to be home to more than 8.2 million by 2040.

Fayette is also expected to have 19 percent of its jobs in the high-paying categories during the same period, up from 15.3 percent today.

Fayette County’s 2010 estimated population stood at 106,000, a 265 percent increase from the county’s 29,043 people in 1980. ARC forecasters say the 2040 population is expected to be 168,500, up 59 percent over the 2010 figures.

ARC spokesperson Jim Jaquish in the ARC’s Feb. 23 Regional Snapshot report noted that the Atlanta region has been one of the fastest-growing metro areas in the United States. Continuing that trend, the 20-county metro Atlanta area is forecast to grow from the 2010 estimated population of 5.254 million to 8.256 million in 2040. That growth would represent a 57.1 percent increase in population.

Looking beyond the county line at Fayette’s neighbors, Coweta County had an 2010 estimated population of 127,000 and is forecast to see a 107.2 percent increase by 2040 to 248,500. Clayton County during the same period is expected to go from 281,100 residents to 321,800, only a 14.5 percent increase that is also the smallest increase in growth forecast for the 20-county area.

Spalding County on Fayette’s south side is forecast to go from a 2010 population of 65,800 to a 2040 population of 114,000, a 73.3 percent increase. Forecasters say that Henry County, with 2010 population of 193,500 will grow to 432,000, a 123 percent increase. Henry is forecast to be the 20-county leader in population growth.

Population projections for other counties to Fayette’s south, such as Pike and Meriwether, were not included in the 20-county study.

Jaquish said continued growth will push the populations of two counties, Fulton and Gwinnett, past the one million mark. Fulton County is forecast to go from a 2010 estimated population of 965,600 to 1,338,900 in 2040, a 38.7 percent increase, while Gwinnett is forecast to see a 54.4 percent increase that will take it from today’s 758,000 population to 1,170,600 in 2040.

The Regional Snapshot noted that today, Fulton, Gwinnett, DeKalb and Cobb counties account for 60 percent of the region’s population. While they will still hold the majority of the residents in 2040, their total share will drop to roughly 52 percent.

Growth in some of the smaller counties accounts for that shift, said Jaquish. Five of the 20 metro counties — Coweta, Forsyth, Henry, Newton and Paulding — will see their populations double by 2040, Jaquish said.

In terms of the creation of high-paying jobs, Fayette County in 2010 had 5,500 of those jobs and a total employment of 35,900, or 15.3 percent. The 2040 forecast anticipates a total employment figure of 73,000 with 13,900, or 19 percent, of those being high-paying.

ARC forecasts that more than 300,000 jobs will be added in the five highest-paying job sectors by 2040. The five highest-paying job sectors today in metro Atlanta region are Professional/Scientific/Technical (average monthly wage: $6,900), Information ($6,600), Finance ($6,300), Wholesale Trade ($6,200) and Company Management ($6,200). ARC advised that these are the highest-paying sectors today, but might not be the highest-paying sectors by 2040. Healthcare jobs, for example, will be in high demand over the next 30 years. This demand could, in theory, push wages up across this sector, the study said.

According to the Regional Snapshot and the U.S. Census Bureau, the highest-paying jobs today are generally located north of the region’s core, following Ga. Highway 400 northward. ARC forecasts this basic trend to continue, but with jobs in today’s five high-paying categories spreading more into Cherokee and Forsyth.

The study said Fulton will continue to have the highest share of jobs in these five sectors, followed by Gwinnett, Cobb and DeKalb, which is the same order as today.

“Even in these tough economic times, the Atlanta region remains a place where people want to live and work,” said ARC Director Chick Krautler. “Our forecasts indicate continued strong population and employment growth for the next 30 years, and that’s good news for every city and county in the metro area.”

As with population, Fulton, Gwinnett, Cobb and DeKalb counties dominate the region’s employment today and will continue to do so, Jaquish said. But the percentage of jobs in those counties will drop from 72 percent to 66 percent. Cherokee County will experience the highest percentage of job growth (166 percent), followed by Henry (141 percent), Barrow (133 percent) and Forsyth (124 percent) counties.

“Metro Atlanta, as one of the best-educated places in the U.S., is well prepared to meet the opportunities of the new globalized economy and to continue its strong growth,” said ARC Research Chief Mike Alexander. “Our predecessors had the vision to invest in the future, creating opportunities for higher education that attract and keep entrepreneurs here and building what is now the world’s busiest airport, providing access to the rest of the world. These economic engines benefit the region and all of Georgia, and will be fundamental to our economic success.”

Metro Atlanta, including Fayette County, has for decades been the recipient of unprecedented population growth as the Northeast and Midwest states barely maintained long-held population levels. And all the while the Sunbelt states continued their population expansion.

The initial 2010 census figures released in January showed Georgia as America’s ninth most populous state with 9,687,653 residents. That figure compares to the 8,186,453 residents in 2000. Michigan, at number eight in 2010 had a population of 9,883,640.

The population forecasts will form the basis for ARC’s new 30-year regional plan, PLAN 2040, which will be adopted by the ARC Board of Directors in the summer of 2011. PLAN 2040 is being developed on a platform of economic, environmental and social sustainability for the entire Atlanta region.

For more details about ARC’s small area population and employment forecasts, including county-specific information visit www.atlantaregional.com/regionalsnapshot.

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