Who we are: More deaths than births on Peninsula, but population stays about the same
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Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Recreation map shows where most of the North Olympic Peninsula's population plays — and also resides.

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

Far more people died than were born in Clallam and Jefferson counties from April 2010, the date of the most recent census, through July 2012, according to newly released U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

In Jefferson County, 756 people died and 439 babies were born over the time span for a decrease of 317, while 2,022 people died and 1,482 babies were born in Clallam County, a decrease of 540.

Yet the population of the North Olympic Peninsula remained static — less than 1 percent change in either county — because of people moving into the area over the 27-month period, according to the estimates.

“It makes sense in any area, and it's not just particular to yours, that if it's a retirement area, there will be fewer births just because there are fewer women of birthing age,” said Mike Mohrman, senior forecast analyst with the state Department of Financial Management, which tracks state population numbers.

Overall, Jefferson County had a slight drop in population, while Clallam County showed a slight increase.

Jefferson County's popula
tion dropped by 0.1 percent to 29,854 people in 2012 from 29,872 in 2010 — a loss of just 18 people. At midpoint, in July 1, 2011, the county's population was 29,875.

Meanwhile, Clallam County's population increased by 0.6 percent over the 27-month period, to 71,863 people in 2012 from 71,404 in 2010. At midpoint, in July 2011, the population was 71,814.

According to the Census Bureau estimates, the population statewide increased 2.6 percent, to 6.9 million people.

The agency did not provide statistics for cities. Statewide statistics on birth rates, death rates and migration totals were not available.

Like Jefferson County, Columbia, Cowlitz, Garfield, Lincoln, Pacific, Pend Oreille and Grays Harbor counties also recorded population declines.

Grays Harbor County had the fourth-worst dropoff in the state, losing 1.5 percent of its population, falling to 71,692.

Clallam County, now more populous than Grays Harbor County, would have lost population if it weren't for new residents, Mohrman said.

More than 1,300 people migrated to the North Olympic Peninsula over the estimate period, both from the United States and other countries.

Of those, 1,032 moved to Clallam County, 222 of whom were from countries other than the U.S.

The percentage of international migrants was far less in Jefferson County.

There were 326 people who moved to Jefferson County, just 22 of whom were from other countries.

Clallam County seemed to buck the overall population trend, if only slightly.

“The trend seems to be in this data that more rural counties are decreasing in population, and urban counties are more likely to increase,” Mohrman said.

Russ Veenema, the executive director of the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce, said the area's aging population did not present significant economic challenges.

“This area has had an older population for decades, and it will probably stay that way,” he said.

“The challenges that come with an older population are the same here as the rest of the country.

“The businesses locally need to make sure they stock products that are more appealing to a higher percentage of the older crowd because that's the majority of people who are living here.”

Dominic Svornich, president of the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce, said the cost of living in the county presents a challenge to younger people who want to move there.

“It's tough for younger families to find ways to make a living,” he said.

“We see a 2-year cycle,” Svornich said.

“A younger family comes, they stay, find ways to try to make it, they don't, and they leave.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: March 16. 2013 7:36PM
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