Crowds at one of the many events that take place in the Bay Area (Steve Rhodes / Flickr)
Crowds at one of the many events that take place in the Bay Area (Steve Rhodes / Flickr)

The Golden State’s population grew nearly 1 percent during the past year — the highest annual rate in nearly a decade.

According to a new report from the state Department of Finance, we now number 38.2 million people, an increase of 332,000 from July 2012 to July 2013. This is the biggest gain for California since 2003-2004, before the recession. While most of the gain is due to a “natural increase” of more births than deaths, demographic experts say  the state also saw increased migration to the recovering labor market.

This is particularly true of the Bay Area. As the Mercury News noted:

The Bay Area is the only region in California where more people are moving in from elsewhere in the United States than moving out, another sign of the tech industry’s rebound and the creation of more jobs here. …

Alameda and Contra Costa counties led the region in “domestic migration,” the report says, adding some 5,142 and 3,671 people, respectively.

Alameda County, in fact, had the highest growth rate in the state. The county grew by nearly 26,000 people to a total of roughly 1.6 million residents — a growth rate of 1.7 percent compared to a statewide rate of 0.9 percent.

Statewide, 103,000 more people left California than came here during the July 2012-July 2013 period — a decline that has continued since 2001. But in the Bay Area, 4,800 more people moved in than left, with Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa and Santa Cruz counties picking up the biggest gains. Santa Clara and San Francisco counties, where most of the area jobs are, saw 3,522 and 1,824, respectively, move away. Just over 1,900 people left San Mateo County.

This doesn’t necessarily mean people are leaving the Bay Area.

“They’re not leaving the region,” said John Malson, a demographer who helped produce the Department of Finance report, to the Mercury News. “They’re just leaving San Francisco and Santa Clara counties because of the cost of living. They’re probably just moving over to Alameda and Contra Costa where they can afford to live, but work in San Francisco.”

Foreign immigration helped boost Bay Area numbers during the 12-month period, and because of that San Francisco, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties all saw net migration gains. Alameda County showed the largest increase, with more than 15,000 people coming in due to both foreign and domestic migration. Santa Clara County was close behind with a net migration of 11,537.

An excerpt from The Associated Press story based on the report:

Q: What is immigration’s impact on growth?

A: Without foreign immigration, more people would be leaving California for other states than moving here. The state drew 169,000 new foreign immigrants over the past year, while nearly 103,000 people moved to other states.

Q: Who are these foreign immigrants:

A: Many are young, well-educated people from Asian countries who are pursuing job opportunities in Silicon Valley.

Q: Where is the state growing fastest?

A: Alameda County, near Silicon Valley, grew fastest during the year, increasing its population to nearly 1.6 million people, a gain of almost 1.7 percent.

Q: Where is most of the state’s population located?

A: More than half of all California residents live in just five counties: Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino.

Q: How does the state’s growth compare to a decade ago?

A: Growth has slowed since a decade ago, when the population increased 1.29 percent to nearly 35.4 million.


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