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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, December 21, 2002

Nevada population up 3.6%

By Jonathan D. Salant
Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The open spaces and neon of Nevada continue to generate a powerful pull on Americans, who settled there at a greater rate than any other state last year, the Census Bureau said yesterday.

In releasing its annual state population estimates, the bureau said 2.2 million people called Nevada home in July 2002, up 3.6 percent from a year earlier. That was the largest percentage increase of any state. It's the 16th consecutive year Nevada led the nation.

Continuing a decades-long trend, the other fastest-growing states all were in the West and South. Arizona was second at 2.8 percent, followed by Florida (2.1 percent), Texas (1.9 percent) and Georgia (1.8 percent).

Hawai'i's population grew from 1,227,024 in 2001 to 1,244,898 in 2002 — an increase of 17,874 people, or 1.5 percent.

Only North Dakota and Washington, D.C., suffered population losses, albeit at a slower rate than previous years, the Census Bureau said. Washington lost 2,924 residents, or 0.5 percent of its population, while North Dakota had a decline of 2,440 resident, or 0.4 percent.

Overall, the nation's population reached 288.4 million, an increase of 3.1 million people, or 1.1 percent, between July 1, 2001, and July 1, 2002, the Census Bureau said. California had more residents than any other state, 35.1 million, followed by Texas (21.8 million) and New York (19.2 million).

William Frey, a demographer with the University of Michigan's Population Studies Center, said states like Nevada and Georgia are home to the new American suburbs that are growing the way bedroom communities in the Northeast did after World War II.

In those states, "there's much more room to grow," Frey said. "People can buy more space for the same amount of money."

In addition, immigrants who once settled in places like New York and San Francisco now are choosing cities like Las Vegas, Phoenix and Atlanta, lured by jobs and more affordable housing, said John Haaga, of the Population Reference Bureau, a research organization in Washington.

The latest yearly population figures for Nevada continue the phenomenal growth that has seen the state nearly triple its population since 1980.

Casino gambling continues to fuel Nevada's economy, said Dina Titus, who leads the Democratic minority in the state senate.

There are employment opportunities in the new casinos, as well as the hotels and restaurants that accompany them. And construction work is plentiful.

"There are jobs here, the cost of living is still low compared to many states, it's good weather and good entertainment," said Titus