Author: Michael Cline, North Carolina State Demographer
North Carolina’s population growth is bouncing back from the depth of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the latest population estimates published by the US Census Bureau, North Carolina’s strong growth in the past year exceeded the average annual growth during the previous decade – driven almost exclusively by the number of new migrants to North Carolina.
Overall, North Carolina’s population grew by 133,000 people from July 1, 2021 to July 1, 2022 (a percentage gain of 1.3%). This compares to an estimated 102,000 (1.0%) average annual change between 2010 and 2020. In the last year, North Carolina added more people than all other states but Texas and Florida.
North Carolina Continues to Be a Prime Destination
The net gain in population from people moving to North Carolina from other states remains strong – adding about 100,000 new North Carolinians over the past year. This net domestic migration was a little less than that for the previous period (at 105,000) but more than double the average annual net gains from other states during the 2010s.
International Migration Recovers
In addition, the latest estimates show an increase in international migration. In 2020, the number of international migrants dropped substantially and remained low through much of 2021. From July 1, 2021 and July 1, 2022, there were an estimated 26,000 net international migrants (compared to 10,000 in the previous year). This meant that one in five net migrants to North Carolina came from abroad.
Overall, domestic and international migration accounted for 95% of the state’s growth in the past year. The remaining growth was attributed to natural increase – 6,000 more births (122,000) than deaths (116,000).
Comparing North Carolina to Other States
At 10.6 million, North Carolina is the 9th largest state in the nation. In the past year, our state added 133,088 people – a gain surpassed by only Texas (+470,708) and Florida (+416,754) and just above our neighboring state – Georgia (+124,847).
On a percentage basis, at 1.3%, our state’s growth was 9th in the nation.
Top 10 States in Percent Growth: 2021-2022
North Carolina added 100,000 people through migration from other states. This was the 3rd largest gain in net domestic migration among states – surpassed by Florida (+319,000) and Texas (+231,000) and slightly more than three of our neighboring states – South Carolina (+84,000), Tennessee (+81,000), and Georgia (+81,000).
Estimated Change in North Carolina and Neighboring States
The US Census Bureau publishes population estimates on an annual basis – starting with the population estimates for states as reported here. These will be followed up by the population estimates for counties in March and the estimates for municipalities in May.
The State Demographer’s office also publishes population estimates for counties and municipalities. We also just completed our latest population projections that provide a look into North Carolina’s demographic future. Our data include population estimates going back to 2000 and projections through 2050 for the state and all North Carolina counties.