Mia Maldanado

(Idaho Capital Sun) After making its way to the second place spot for the highest-growing state in the country, new data reveals that Idaho is no longer at its peak for population growth, according to a news release issued by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Idaho Department of Labor.

In 2022, Idaho’s population grew by 1.8%, making it the state with the second-highest growth rate behind Florida. But since the height of the pandemic, that growth has slowed down for many Idaho counties.

Between July 2021 and July 2022, 88% of the state’s population change came from people moving to Idaho — a slight decrease from 91% of Idaho’s population change in 2020.

The U.S. Census Bureau calculates the latest population estimates using data on births, deaths and migration since the most recent decennial census in 2020. The estimates are used as indicators of county, state and national demographic changes.

According to the latest population estimates, the remaining 12% of the state’s population growth in 2022 came from net natural change, or when births outnumber deaths. Canyon, Madison and Ada counties were the largest contributors to that growth, the census data showed.

Population losses in Idaho counties offset with migration

In the 22 Idaho counties where deaths outnumbered births, losses were offset by newcomers moving to the state. Gooding County was the only Idaho county to experience a net decline in people — 64 more deaths than births — but that decline was almost offset by about 59 individuals moving into the county.

Blaine County was the only Idaho county to lose population from people moving to other areas, but the population loss was offset by gaining five times as many international immigrants.

Ada County also added over 500 people from international in-migration, ranking highest in this narrow category among the state’s 44 counties. According to the press release, some international migration is derived from American citizens returning from jobs abroad.

“Despite inflation, rising mortgage rates and housing costs, growth was still brisk among the counties that experienced a slower influx of people,” the press release said. “In some areas growth has returned to more sustainable rates, slowing more dramatically in counties with high levels of tourism such as Blaine, Valley and Teton counties. These counties require additional service workers yet lack affordable housing.”

More Idaho residents are moving to rural areas

The latest population estimate also shows that rural areas are making a comeback — aligning with a national pattern of large metropolitan areas experiencing displacement to the suburbs and exurbs, or areas just outside the periphery of a city.

According to the latest estimate, nine urban Idaho counties reported a slower growth rate than the 35 rural counties. The U.S. Census Bureau defines an urban area as a county with a city whose population is at 20,000 or more.

While rural counties grew 2.3% in 2022, urban counties grew 1.6%, slightly behind the state’s overall growth rate of 1.8%.

The 2022 population estimate showed that three North Idaho counties were among the top five with the highest growth rates from 2021 to 2022.

The top five were:

  • Boundary County, 5.6%
  • Benewah County, 4.3%
  • Adams County, 4%
  • Jefferson County, 3.6%
  • Bonner County, 3.6%

In the summer, the U.S. Census Bureau plans to release city, metropolitan and micropolitan statistical area population estimates.