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Washtenaw County led southeastern Michigan in population growth last year, outpacing its neighbors Macomb and Oakland counties, which also had increases, according to 2016 U.S. Census data estimates released Thursday.

Washtenaw’s growth contrasts with the continued decline in Wayne County, which lost 7,696 people — the smallest decline for the state’s largest county since 2004 — bringing its total population to 1.74 million.

“Washtenaw is doing better in terms of attracting people from outside,” Xuan Liu, manager of research and data analysis for the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments, wrote in an email to The News. “This could be because of its education resources, growing knowledge-based economy, and quality of life.”

Washtenaw grew by 3,862 residents to 364,709, an increase of 1.07 percent. Kent County on the west side had the largest population surge in the state, adding 6,078 residents, to 642,173. But its percentage increase of 0.96 percent was slightly lower than Washtenaw.

The drop in Wayne last year was close to its 2015 decline, which was 7,857, according to census data.

MOBILE USERS:Explore a map of Michigan with the most recent county-by-county Census data

Kurt Metzger, a demographer and director emeritus of Data Driven Detroit, said he’s concerned that likely means continued population losses for Detroit. The city’s population was 677,116 as of last summer, a decline of 3,107 residents from the previous year.

“It’s going to be tough for Detroit to have gained,” he said.

Since 2010, Washtenaw has shown the fastest population growth in southeastern Michigan, growing nearly 5.5 percent or by 19,141 residents.

“Our market is extremely strong,” said Ed Ridha, a Realtor in the Ann Arbor area. “And it’s not just Ann Arbor.”

He said smaller cities are attracting attention including Dexter, Ypsilanti, Saline and Chelsea. He’s seeing buyers from out-of-state and surrounding counties going for the higher-priced homes in the area, he said.

“We benefit a lot from having the universities we have ... and the medical systems,” said Teresa Gillotti, housing manager for Washtenaw’s Office of Community and Economic Development. “They seem to do well even through the recession.”

The Washtenaw officials acknowledged the benefits of the population boost, but said when they look deeper at the numbers they are concerned to find that areas of the county are doing better than others.

A recent report by the Martin Prosperity Institute at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management ranked the Ann Arbor area as the eighth most “economically segregated” metro area in the nation. Researchers used factors related to income, education and occupation in their calculation.

Housing cost increases mean more people are commuting longer distances to jobs and many are “living at the margins,” said Andrea Plevek, director of the Washtenaw Office of Community and Economic Development. She described that disparity as “economically dangerous,” adding the agency is combatting that in part by looking at housing affordability issues.

Elsewhere in Metro Detroit, the population in Oakland County increased by 0.3 percent, or 3,669, to 1.24 million residents in 2016, while Macomb rose 0.37 percent, or 3,223, to 867,730.

The six-county Detroit region’s population went virtually unchanged last year, adding only 79 people in 2016 to 4.3 million. That number includes Oakland, Macomb, Wayne, Lapeer, Livingston and St. Clair counties.

For the second year, Wayne County was No. 2 in the nation in the largest population decline, behind Illinois’ Cook County, which lost 21,324

Michigan’s overall population increased for the fifth straight year in 2016, but its growth was dwarfed by southern and western states. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated the state gained 10,585 residents, increasing 0.1 percent to 9,928,300 as of July.

Top five counties with the largest population gains

 

County

2015

2016

Change

Percent change

1

Kent

636095

642173

6078

0.96

2

Washtenaw

360847

364709

3862

1.07

3

Oakland

1240301

1243970

3669

0.30

4

Macomb

864507

867730

3223

0.37

5

Ingham

285735

288051

2316

0.81

      
 

Top five counties with the largest population losses

2015

2016

Change

Percent change

1

Wayne County, Michigan

1757062

1749366

-7696

-0.44

2

Genesee County, Michigan

410442

408615

-1827

-0.45

3

Jackson County, Michigan

159465

158460

-1005

-0.63

4

Saginaw County, Michigan

193290

192326

-964

-0.50

5

Marquette County, Michigan

67305

66435

-870

-1.29

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