New report by the Atlanta Regional Commission attributes population growth in Metro Atlanta counties to regions job growth. GREG LYNCH / STAFF

Metro Atlanta population increased by 75,800 new residents in 2017

Metro Atlanta has added nearly 76,000 new residents in the last year, an indication of a thriving local economy, according to an Atlanta Regional Commission annual report.

ARC, a planning agency for the the 10-county Atlanta region, estimates the metro area grew by 1.7 percent, to slightly more than 4.5 million residents.

“This the second-largest increase, year over year, that we have had since the Great Recession. It’s just a reflection of a good economy and the Atlanta region being a high quality kind of area that is attracting new residents from the rest of the nation and abroad,” said Mike Carnathan, manager of ARC’s research and analytics group.

A recently published U.S. Census Bureau report showed Atlanta’s population surge is among the top 10 cities nationwide. In 2010, according to the census bureau, the city of Atlanta had a population of 420,425 residents. July 2017 estimates indicated a 15.7 percent increase to 486,270 residents.

The region also recorded strong job growth, with more than 41,000 jobs added to the region between April 2017 and April 2018, the ARC report said.

Statewide, the Georgia Department of Labor reported 77,300 jobs added to the economy since June of last year.

“There is a strong correlation between job growth, a healthy economy and population growth,” said Carnathan.

In a region that also included Gwinnett, DeKalb, Cobb, Cherokee, Henry, Clayton, Fayette, Douglas and Rockdale counties, the biggest spike in population was recorded in Fulton, with 17,570 new residents. Combined, the counties added a total of 75,800 residents.

Over the past year, 24,500 new residential building permits were issued across metro Atlanta. Building permits give an indication of which areas are most attractive to residents, Carnathan said.

For new permits for single family units, “there is a definite northward tilt to where the growth is going — and that has been the pattern of growth in the last decade,” said Carnathan.

“If you are having a lot of single family buildings like we see in Gwinnett, those household sizes are going to be larger and we can associate a larger population growth with that,” he added.

ARC’s board chair Kerry Armstrong said the annual population estimates are important as they provide local governments the opportunity to plan for the future.

“They help us understand where growth is occurring and where investments might be needed to ensure that our region remains a great place to live in,” said Armstrong.

As populations grow, there emerges a need to build infrastructure and services to support the increase in numbers.

Roger Tutterow, an economist at Kennesaw State University, says strains on the infrastructure, education and social services tend to increase as the population grows.

But, he admits, solving those problems is better than dealing with a loss of population.

“As much as we worry about keeping up with our growing population and providing it with the services and infrastructure it needs, these are still better problems to have than being in communities that are losing jobs and populations.”

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