Gwinnett tops 1M people, metro Atlanta population booms, new study says

Atlanta Regional Commission says 11-county are sees strong population growth, especially within the city of Atlanta and the region’s outer suburbs
Some 150 participants and their friends and family stand for the Presentation of Colors during a naturalization ceremony for new citizens at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Complex in Lawrenceville on Tuesday, July 2, 2024.  (Steve Schaefer / AJC)

Credit: Steve Schaefer /

Credit: Steve Schaefer /

Some 150 participants and their friends and family stand for the Presentation of Colors during a naturalization ceremony for new citizens at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Complex in Lawrenceville on Tuesday, July 2, 2024. (Steve Schaefer / AJC)

Like kudzu during a Southern summer, metro Atlanta just keeps growing.

The 11-county Atlanta area added 62,700 residents between April 2023 and April 2024, boosting the region to a record 5.2 million, according to estimates the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) released Wednesday. Each county increased its population during that span, but the city of Atlanta and the region’s exurbs saw the fastest rate of growth.

And Gwinnett County became Georgia’s second to eclipse 1 million residents, joining Fulton in the seven-figure club.

The data highlights metro Atlanta’s continued magnet-like attraction as a migration hub from across the country. While the most recent population increase was about 6% less than the year prior, ARC analysts said the Atlanta area’s employment growth has remained robust, creating upward population momentum that isn’t easily broken.

“It’s fueled by metro Atlanta having a strong economy,” said Mike Carnathan, the ARC’s managing director of research and analytics. “People tend to follow jobs.”

Jobs in the region increased 6.4% since the pandemic began in early 2020, which ranks as the seventh-highest in the nation among similar metros, according to ARC data. Atlanta only trailed Austin, Dallas, Las Vegas, Orlando, Houston and Miami.

The fastest population growth rates among counties during the 12 months that ended in April occurred in Cherokee County (1.9%), Henry County (1.8%) and Forsyth County (1.6%). Atlanta, which only surpassed half a million residents three years ago, saw a faster growth rate than any of the counties in its orbit at 2.1%.

ARC’s estimates differ from U.S. Census Bureau data, which includes 29 counties within the Atlanta metro area. Census data for 2023 that was released in March showed metro Atlanta leapfrogged both Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia to become the nation’s sixth-largest metropolitan region with 6.3 million residents.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, who also serves as the ARC board chair, credited the region’s growth to its “dynamic, diverse economy” and “great quality of life.”

“Of course, our continued growth is not guaranteed,” the mayor continued in a news release. “We must continue to invest in our region’s infrastructure to ensure a successful future.”

Building anticipation

To predict growth, Carnathan says key indicators include building permits.

Atlanta’s permits roughly tripled during 2022-23, and that trend has continued into this year. During the most recent yearlong span, the city led the region by issuing 7,621 building permits, of which 85% were for multifamily projects.

“The building permit numbers that we see in Atlanta are still very strong,” Carnathan said. “That’s obviously going to fuel population growth.”

Atlanta is experiencing a population surge that outpaces growth in other parts of the region, according to the Atlanta Regional Commission. This areal image shows the downtown Atlanta skyline as seen on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. (Miguel Martinez / AJC)

Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC

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Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC

Gwinnett had the second-most permits issued during that time frame, building upon decades of anticipated growth for Georgia’s second-most populated county.

During the 1990s and 2000s, Gwinnett was among the fastest-growing counties in the nation.

The surge of new residents not only contributed to the county’s rapid shift from Republican stronghold to Democratic suburb, but it influenced how local leaders invested in infrastructure, public transport and density.

“(Gwinnett) has changed significantly over that time by becoming more of an urban place while still maintaining its suburban characteristics,” Carnathan said.

Other counties are seeing similar growth spurts, such as Douglas. Carnathan said its building permits doubled during the past year, and its population saw a 1.6% increase during ARC’s most recent population update, nearly a percentage point higher than the year prior.


Despite the region’s upward trajectory, metro Atlanta faces challenges that could dissuade more transplants from moving here.

The region’s reputation for unbearable traffic remains persistent, and job growth in the Atlanta area has slowed following years of explosive post-pandemic economic recovery. The metro Atlanta housing market, which historically has been a cheaper alternative to other gateway cities, has seen prices skyrocket in recent years as demand has outpaced residential development.

“Home prices continue to increase, and that’s going to act as a brake on in-migration,” Carnathan said. “But that’s not just a metro Atlanta thing. That’s serving as a brake for growth everywhere in the nation.”

Outer suburban counties, such as Cherokee, Forsyth and Henry, have seen the largest percentages of residential growth since 2020, which Carnathan credits partially to their land availability and housing options. Rockdale County, which is along the fast-developing I-20 east corridor, also saw a significant bump in new residents.

While headwinds such as housing costs could stymie the region’s steady growth, Carnathan said metro Atlanta’s momentum is unlikely to be quickly undone.

“We’re the sixth-largest metropolitan area in the nation now. (Atlanta) is a built-out urban area and a mature urban area,” he said. “... I’m really foreseeing a continuation of trends for the next few years barring anything like another pandemic.”