- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 23, 2014

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - The Carolinas continue to rank among the nation’s fastest-growing states, newly released U.S. Census population estimates show.

North Carolina has overtaken Michigan to become the nation’s ninth-largest state, adding more than 95,000 new residents between July 2013 and July 2014. That pushed the state’s total estimated population to just shy of 10 million.

“People want to live in a place where they can fulfill their potential,” said Gov. Pat McCrory. “And for an increasing number of Americans and people throughout the world, that place is North Carolina.”

South Carolina added more than 60,000 new residents to reach a total population of more than 4.8 million. That put the Palmetto State’s growth rate among the top ten fastest-growing state’s nationally.

Michael Walden, an economics professor at North Carolina State University, said the new numbers bear out the decades-long trend of high growth in Sun Belt states benefiting from northern retirees seeking warmer climes and businesses seeking weaker government regulations and a cheaper workforce.

“The Southeast, in general, has grown faster than the rest of the nation over the last 30 or 40 years,” Walden said. “The retiring Baby Boomers are much more mobile than they used to be, seeking better weather. Businesses like it here because we’re an open-shop state with minimal unions.”

Walden said he expects the growth to continue, with North Carolina’s population approaching 14 million by mid-century. The newcomers will intensify urban development along the interstate corridor running from the Triangle through the Triad down to Charlotte. Rural counties, however, will continue to thin out as young people seek better opportunities in the cities, Walden predicted.

That, in turn, will tax roads and infrastructure in the decades to come.

“We will become a more urbanized state,” Walden said. “Adding people usually leads to a bigger economy. But there will be challenges in respect to more traffic congestion and the school systems in those fast-growing counties. Housing costs also tend to be higher in more densely populated areas. I think it behooves public-policy makers to think ahead.”

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