An analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data shows 18 counties in Oklahoma increased in population by 5 percent or more from 2000 to 2008. The Oklahoma City metropolitan area grew by 10.1 percent to more than 1.2 million while the Tulsa metro grew by 6.6 percent for an estimated population of about 916,000.
During the same period, the Stillwater area grew 14.8 percent while Durant grew 9.8 percent.
Central Oklahoma continues to post strong population gains, said Eric Long, manager of research and information services for the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber. The area had six of the top 10 counties in population growth.
“It’s not just growth in Oklahoma City or Oklahoma County,” Long said. “All of the surrounding counties in our region are growing.”
The chamber’s own 10-county region in central Oklahoma grew more than 10 percent since 2000, Long said, surpassing the statewide average growth of 5.6 percent.
“Even though their jobs might be in Oklahoma County, many people are moving into the surrounding counties to benefit from the housing situation in the whole region,” Long said.
Of the state’s three metropolitan areas, only Lawton lost population between 2000 and 2008. It dropped to 111,772 people in 2008, a decline of 2.8 percent from 2000.
Meanwhile, 54 of the state’s 77 counties showed population gains from 2007 to 2008, according to census estimates. Among the areas losing population is a swath of southwest Oklahoma, including Jackson and Comanche counties.
Estimates show Tulsa County ranked No. 1 in the state in total population increase for a one-year period, growing by an estimated 7,841 people from 2007 to 2008.
Tulsa Metro Chamber Economist Bob Ball said a strong local economy during that time may have contributed to the population increase in Tulsa.
“People move where the jobs are,” Ball said. “If you want to weather a recession and make some money, the opportunity is better in Tulsa, because of the nature of business here.”
The census data also detailed migration patterns in “micropolitan” areas, which are population centers around cities of between 10,000 and 49,999 people. Of Oklahoma’s 17 micropolitan areas, eight of them had higher rates of people moving in than births since 2000.
Of those areas, Stillwater and Durant posted the largest percentage gains in population since 2000. Altus, Ponca City and Miami, Okla., all lost population during the same period.