- Associated Press - Sunday, May 22, 2016

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - New census estimates show the Indianapolis metropolitan area includes four of the five fastest-growing counties in Indiana and 10 of the 11 fastest-growing cities and towns with populations of at least 5,000.

The 2015 population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau show suburban Hamilton County’s population grew by 13 percent over the last five years, followed by adjacent Boone County’s 12 percent growth. Hendricks (9 percent) and Johnson (7 percent) counties also made the top five, along with Tippecanoe (7.5 percent), home to Lafayette.

An analysis by the Indiana Business Research Center at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business further showed the Boone County town of Whitestown was the state’s fastest-growing incorporated area for a fifth straight year in 2015 at 14.5 percent. McCordsville in Hancock County ranked No. 2 at 6.1 percent growth, followed by Brownsburg in Hendricks County at 5.5 percent.

The estimates show Indiana’s population has grown about 2 percent since 2010, when the last census was conducted.

“I’m a little surprised that, this far on from the Great Recession, we are still seeing growth as sluggish as it is,” Matthew Kinghorn, chief demographer at the research center, told The Indianapolis Star.

However, Indiana’s population growth outpaced those of neighboring states Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio, he said.

Indianapolis had the state’s largest numeric gain with 4,188 new residents in 2015, the estimates showed. With 862,781 residents, Indianapolis was the nation’s 14th-largest city in 2015, ranking behind San Francisco (864,816) and ahead of Columbus, Ohio (850,106).

Fort Wayne, the state’s second-largest city, grew by an estimated 1,956 residents to reach a total population of 260,326. South Bend grew by 311 residents in 2015 to reach a total population of 101,516, making it the fourth-largest city. Evansville’s size fell by an estimated 344 residents in 2015 to 119,943 residents last year.

The remaining 10 largest Indiana communities in 2015 were Carmel (88,713), Fishers (88,658), Bloomington (84,067), Hammond (77,614), Gary (77,156) and Lafayette (71,111), the estimates showed.

The neighboring Lake County communities of Gary and Hammond had the state’s largest population declines, with each losing more than 800 residents in 2015. Other larger Indiana cities with losses last year include Muncie (down 196), Anderson (down 193), Terre Haute (down 147) and Kokomo (down 87).

In 58 of Indiana’s 92 counties, the population fell or stayed flat, the estimates showed. Except for Lake, which fell by nearly 2 percent, those counties represent mostly rural areas. Union, Tipton, Rush, Fountain and Randolph counties each have lost about 4 percent to 5 percent of their populations since 2010.

“Rural or midsize communities are seeing population declines, and it’s been that way for the past 10 or 15 years,” Kinghorn said. “A lot is linked to the loss of industrial jobs, a shrinking employment base. There’s just not as much to draw new residents to the area.”

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