Fayette’s slowed growth rate mirrors metro Atlanta

The Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) in August released a report that examined the changes in the 10-county metro Atlanta population where the recession is taking its toll. Yet Fayette County, like the remaining ARC counties and the larger 28-county metro area continue to grow, albeit at a slower rate than what was seen in the past three decades.

Fayette County to a large degree mirrored the overall population changes seen throughout the ARC region in previous decades. With an estimated 2010 population of nearly 107,000, Fayette has continued to grow its population, adding more than 15,000 residents since 1990. But the advances in average annual population growth seen in Fayette in the 1980s and 1990s gave way to fewer new residents in the past decade.

That same trend was evidenced in Cobb, DeKalb, Gwinnett, Rockdale and Clayton counties. Cherokee, Douglas, Fulton and Henry counties, on the other hand, saw a population gains during the past 10 years that superseded the gains in the previous two decades.

All things considered, Fayette’s population increase in the previous decades has been staggering. Fayette in 1970 was an obviously rural county with a population of 11,364. That number increased to 29,043 in 1980 then swelled to 62,800 in 1990. Fayette saw another large gain in population by 2000, with a population listed 91,263.

Since the 2000 Census the county grew by 15,637 to 106,900, with an average of 1,564 people per year. Yet from 2009 to 2010 in the throes of the recession the population grew by only 200 people, according to ARC estimates.

In all, the report noted that every county in the 10-county region has experienced a dramatic slowdown in the percentage of population growth compared to previous recent decades.

The report noted the change in population over the past decade between the five “inner counties” of Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, Cobb and Gwinnett and the five “outer counties” that include Cherokee, Fayette, Douglas, Henry and Rockdale.

The outer counties showed a combined growth rate of approximately 5.5 percent in 2001, then dropping to approximately 3.3 percent by 2003. By 2005 the growth rate had climbed to just over 5 percent until mid-2006 when those numbers began to fall again.

Growth in the outer counties has continued to fall since that time and, to date, sits at just under 1 percent.

Comparatively, the inner counties had a combined growth rate of approximately 2.7 percent in 2001, declining steadily to just under 1 percent in 2004.

The growth rate began to climb in 2004 until it reached a peak of of approximately 2.5 percent, a figure that continued until early 2007. And like its more suburban neighbors, the inner counties saw the growth rate slip until it hit a low of approximately .6 percent in 2009. A slight uptick in 2010 now has the inner counties population growth rate at just under 1 percent.

That represents a number that, for the first time in a decade, is equal to the growth in the outer counties.

The recession and a deflated housing market notwithstanding, the ARC report noted that the Atlanta region has averaged more than 72,000 new residents per year during the past decade.

The 10-county area is now home to 4,155,000 people while the larger 28-county Metropolitan Statistical Area ranks second in the nation, behind Dallas, in population growth between 2000-2009 when more than 1.2 million people moved to the area.

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