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Minnesota population sees boost from immigrants, out-of-state transplant, census says

Michael Brun / Forum News Service

For the second year in a row, Minnesota attracted new residents from other states in 2018 and immigration continued to play an important role in the state’s population growth.

Last year, about 17,000 of the more than 43,000 new Minnesota residents came from other states or countries, according to population estimates released Thursday, April 18, by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The balance came from what demographers call natural population growth — when births outpace deaths. At 25,770 people in 2018, Minnesota’s natural population growth continues a long-standing trend of decline.

“That is something to be expected as we become an older state,” said Susan Brower, Minnesota state demographer. “Immigration becomes more of an important piece of how we grow.”

Nearly 60% of new Minnesotans in 2018, or 10,718 people, were immigrants, the census reported. The remaining 6,769 who moved here came from other parts of the U.S.

The number of Minnesota transplants from out-of-state was slightly less than the nearly 7,600 who moved here in 2017. The second year of adding residents from out-of-state reverses a seven-year trend of Minnesota losing people to other locales.

The new census figures continue to confirm what Brower says is a long-term trend in Minnesota: Attracting residents from other places is important to the state’s long-term economic viability.

“We don’t have a lot of growth projected in our labor force moving forward,” Brower said. “I think, right now, a lot of employers are wondering where they will find workers for the jobs we have.”

The state’s unemployment rate ticked up slightly in February to 3.1%, the state Department of Employment and Economic Development reported.

While immigrants play a key role in the state’s population growth, international migration has slowed down from post-recession highs, the census shows. That is likely due to increased competition for workers and changes in federal immigration policies that have capped refugee resettlements and slowed visa approvals.

Minnesota’s population grew at 0.8% in 2018, slightly above the national average but below the rate of the fastest-growing states like Nevada and Texas.

Out of the 3,142 counties in the U.S., more than half, or 1,739 counties, saw an increase in population between 2017 and 2018. Just 12 counties saw no change and 1,391 saw a population decline.

Jacob Wascalus, a research scientist with Minnesota Compass and Wilder Research, noted Minnesota counties that are growing have seen strong increases in both births and new arrivals. Carver and Scott counties led the way with more than 13% growth since 2010.

Ramsey and Hennepin counties grew by 8% and 9%, respectively, during that time, with much of the migration coming from immigrants, census data show.

But it is not all good news.

Of Minnesota’s 87 counties, 32 lost residents last year. All of those declines were in rural counties, with the biggest losses in the southwest and northwest regions of the state.

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