- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 20, 2012

New census data show the nation’s capital is one of the fastest-growing areas in the country, adding more than 30,000 residents since early 2010 and recently eclipsing Vermont in overall population.

The District saw a 2.15 percent increase in population from July 1, 2011, to July 1 of this year to bring its number of residents to 632,323, according to estimates released Thursday. Among states, the District trailed only North Dakota in growth rate during the period, as the northern Midwest state experiences boom times in the oil-and-gas industry and an unemployment rate of 3.1 percent — the lowest in the nation.

Overall, the United States gained 2.3 million residents from 2011 to 2012, a 0.75 percent change, to reach a total of 313.9 million residents, according to the estimates.

In the District, Mayor Vincent C. Gray said the figures were a sign the city is heading in the right direction. He boasted that the nation’s capital outpaced fast-growing places like Texas, although the Lone Star State has a much larger population — making its 1.67 percent growth significant — and added the most total residents of any state, with 427,400.

Vermont, Rhode Island and Puerto Rico lost residents during the one-year span. So the District, by seeing a net gain of 13,303 residents during the July-to-July period, now has a higher population than Vermont and Wyoming, according to the estimates.

As a federal enclave, the District is frequently compared with states instead of other urban areas. The comparison can be awkward or misleading at times, and Mr. Gray has complained that the District is often ranked against other states when there is a negative connotation for the city.

Yet the mayor and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, the District’s nonvoting member of Congress, are actively pushing to make the District the nation’s 51st state, which would give it the two senators and a voice in the House that residents and officials have sought for years. Mr. Gray’s spokesman, Pedro Ribeiro, said Thursday the city will use the population data in its push for greater fiscal freedom from Congress or other forms of expanded home rule.

“Regardless of our population, as Americans, District residents have the right to control our own local government,” he said. “However, our growing population and thriving local economy does help highlight the fact that we are quite capable of self-governance.”

Harriet Tregoning, the city’s planning director, attributed the city’s population gains to sustainable development, “amenity-rich” neighborhoods and optimal choices in housing and transportation.

“As I said two years ago, the District is a great place to live, and I expect the population to continue to grow.” Ms. Tregoning said in a press release on the census figures.

Officials in the District have cultivated the city’s reputation as a magnet for young professionals, offering tax incentives for large companies like Living Social and attempting to build a tech hub as part of large development projects. Despite its label as a pass-through for transient people born outside the District, the city saw 6,050 more people move there from other jurisdictions than move out, according to the mayor’s office.

Mr. Gray also pointed to a “baby boom” of 9,156 births compared with 4,873 deaths during the one-year period, and noted the city’s unemployment rate had dropped from 10.5 percent in October 2011 to 8.5 percent in October of this year.

The Baltimore Sun reported that the District, with its gains, will surge past nearby Baltimore in population for the first time. The Maryland city was home to 619,493 residents as of July 1, 2011, according to census estimates.