(AP) America's population is now increasing a bit faster thanks to an improving economy, but not enough to lift growth above its lowest level since the Great Depression.
New 2012 estimates released Thursday by the Census Bureau offer the latest snapshot of the U.S. population, which has slowed dramatically since the recent recession.
As a whole, the U.S. population grew by 2.3 million, reaching 313.9 million people. That growth of 0.75 percent was higher than the 0.73 percent rate in 2011, ending five years of slowing growth rates. Nevertheless, growth levels remains stuck at historically low levels not seen since 1937, restrained by reduced childbirths.
Over the last year, the economy has shown improvement, with the unemployment rate declining modestly and U.S. migration edging up after hitting a record low in 2011. As a result, states including Texas, North Dakota, Colorado, Oregon, Maryland and Virginia posted notable population gains as many young adults moved out from their parents' homes, seeking to test the job market in areas with thriving economies in energy or technology.
Still, the nation continues to get older, due to aging baby boomers and fewer people in their child-bearing years. Newly released census projections now show that U.S. growth may have largely peaked, barring a significant and sustained increase in new immigrants. The numbers put U.S. growth in the next year or two at just under 0.8 percent, before flattening and gradually falling to rates of about half a percent, a level unseen in more than a century.
U.S. growth reached a high in 1950 of more than 2 percent, lifted by the post-World War II baby boom.
After decades of wars, a depression, immigration surges, baby booms, boomlets and busts, we are entering a new era of modest growth, said William H. Frey, a demographer at Brookings Institution.
We will now need to cope with population challenges that past growth has left us notably, the needs of a large aging baby boom population which will require resources for its medical care, and the social and economic integration of first- and second-generation immigrants, he said.
The Census Bureau released state population estimates as of July 1, 2012. The data show annual changes through births, deaths, and domestic and foreign migration.
The latest data show that North Dakota grew faster than any state in the nation, climbing by 2.2 percent from July 2011 to July of this year. The District of Columbia was next-fastest growing, followed by Texas, Wyoming and Utah.
Two states lost population: Rhode Island and Vermont.
California remained the most populous state, followed by Texas, New York, Florida and Illinois.