UTAH (ABC4) – The U.S. population growth had its lowest rate since the nation’s founding in 2021, with a growth of only 0.1%, as the coronavirus curbed immigration, slowed pregnancies and killed hundreds of thousands of U.S. residents, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Despite the historic lows, states in the West saw the biggest growth, with Idaho growing by almost 3%, and Utah and Montana each seeing population increases of 1.7%.

The Bureau is attributing the extremely slow growth rate to the pandemic, saying that it exacerbated the already slow growth rate that’s been seen in recent years. Likewise, the slowest growth rate in the 20th century was from 1918-1919 due to the influenza pandemic and World War I.

“I was expecting low growth but nothing this low,” said William Frey, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution’s metropolitan policy program, Brookings Metro. “It tells us that this pandemic has had a huge impact on us in all kinds of ways, and now demography.”

Population growth likely won’t bounce back to what it was for years past because of the fewer births happening throughout the country, which should ncrease the need for immigration by younger workers whose taxes can support programs such as Social Security, Frey said.

“We have an aging population and that means fewer women in child-bearing ages,” Frey said. “We see younger people putting off having children and they’re going to have fewer children.”

The population estimates were calculated by determining the number of births, deaths and migration in the U.S. For the first time, international migration surpassed natural increases that come from births outnumbering deaths, with an increase of nearly 245,000 residents from international migration but only about 148,000 from new births outnumbering deaths.

2021 has been the smallest spread of births over deaths in more than 80 years.

“Of course most of this is COVID, but not all of it,” University of New Hampshire demographer Kenneth Johnson said. “U.S. natural increase was already at a low ebb prior to COVID with the fertility rate hitting a new record low each year and deaths steadily rising due to the population aging.”

The contrasting growth in states like Utah is largely attributed to the increase in people that are moving to the area.

With an anticipated price growth of 8.5% and sales growth of 15.2%, Salt Lake City leads the projected housing market ahead of Boise, ID, Spokane, WA, and Indianapolis, ID. 

Major companies like Facebook, Adobe, and Electronic Arts have played a big role in drawing in people from out of state, earning SLC the nickname, “Silicon Slopes.”

Utah is projected to continue its growth in the coming years, setting itself apart from the rest of the country as a viable destination and place to make a home.