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Fairfax County Tops 1 Million
Some Virginia Counties Losing Population While Growth Spreads Elsewhere

January 30, 2003-- The total number of Virginia residents is growing steadily in the first decade of the 21st century, and for the first time in the state's history, the population of a single locality -- Fairfax County -- is estimated to be over 1 million.

But a substantial number of rural counties, along with smaller cities, are losing residents, according to new annual estimates from the University of Virginia's Weldon Cooper Center for Public Service.

The center's provisional 2002 estimate shows Fairfax County at 1,006,300, more than twice the 428,400 population of the state's second-largest locality, the city of Virginia Beach.

Much of the state's new growth is spreading from densely populated Northern Virginia west along the Interstate 66 corridor and south along both U.S. 29 and Interstate 95. Growth is also occurring in the Interstate 64 corridor between the Charlottesville metro area and Richmond suburbs, said Julia H. Martin, the center's director of demographic research.

The regions with substantial numbers of localities losing population in the new decade include Southside, Southwest Virginia, the western Shenandoah Valley and the Northern Neck in the east.

The center's official state estimates for 2002 show Northern Virginia's Loudoun County, growing at 21.3 percent between 2000 and 2002, as the state's fastest-growing locality. In 2001, Loudoun was the second fastest-growing county in the nation, according to the Bureau of the Census.

"Virginia's population growth overall remains healthy, but it is more concentrated than ever," Martin said. "Many more areas are losing population than in the 1990s, probably as the sluggish economy prompts people to leave the state’s most rural areas in search of jobs. But at the same time, growth along several of the major urban corridors is continuing. "

Some highlights of the new population estimates include:

  • A significant number of Southside, Southwest and western Shenandoah Valley counties are losing population.
  • Growth is spreading along the I-66 corridor as far west as Clark and Shenandoah counties in the Shenandoah Valley.
  • As might be expected, Northern Virginia grew the fastest of all Virginia's eight metropolitan statistical areas. And for the first time since the mid-90s, two metro areas -- Danville and the Virginia portion of the Bristol area --lost population.
  • The Charlottesville metro area, including Fluvanna, Greene and Albemarle counties and Charlottesville, is the second fastest growing metro area in the state.
  • The state's estimated 2002 population is 7.29 million, up about 3 percent from the official 2000 census figure of 7.08 million. So far, Virginia's average annual growth rate is 1.3 percent for the decade.

The U.Va. center's annual estimates use an equation based on regression analysis of population statistics. School enrollment, births, licensed drivers, housing stock and state tax return exemptions are used as indicators.

The full report of 2002 population estimates and growth rates for all Virginia localities and regions is on the Weldon Cooper Demographics Web site at The site includes maps and other graphs.

Mike Spar was co-researcher in preparing the estimates.

Contact: Bob Brickhouse, (434) 924-6856

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services


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