Peninsula: Lesson learned on ‘revised’ population figures

So the lessons are:

* An estimate is an estimate.

* Always do the math.

Larry Crockett, executive director of the Port of Port Townsend, noted several discrepancies in Sunday’s Peninsula Daily News story on the U.S. Census Bureau’s new population estimates for Jefferson and Clallam counties.

For one thing, if Jefferson County’s population grew from an estimated 26,761 in 2002 to an estimated 27,716 in 2003, that’s an increase of 3.6 percent.

But the PDN reported that the Census Bureau said the county grew by 1.8 percent.

The PDN had the percentages and 2003 figures right — but the 2002 figures, taken from a PDN story last year, were wrong because of revisions by the Census Bureau.

Here are the correct Census Bureau estimates:

* Clallam County grew 1.2 percent from 66,092 to 66,892 (or a net increase of 800 people) between July 1, 2002 and July 1, 2003. (There were 64,179 recorded in the official 2000 census).

* Jefferson County went from 27,230 to 27,716 (486 net increase). As noted, that’s a hike of 1.8 percent. (2000 census: 26,299).

* The North Olympic Peninsula’s total population rose to an estimated 94,608 as of July 1, 2003. That’s up 1,286, or 1.4 percent, from July 1, 2002 — and 4.6 percent (4,130) over the 2000 census figure.

So what happened?

The 2002 figures used in Sunday’s story for Clallam and Jefferson came from out of the PDN’s archives.

The county-by-county table we got for Sunday’s edition from The Associated Press had only the 2003 total and the percentage increase over 2002.

Last year, the Census Bureau estimated that Clallam had grown to 66,302 in 2002 and that Jefferson was up to 26,761, which is what the PDN reported on April 17, 2003.

And that’s what we plugged into Sunday’s story.

But when the 2003 figures were released, revisions had been made to population estimates for 2002.

In past years, we’ve since learned, even the 2000 census figures have been revised.

The Census Bureau said its figures are changed when new numbers come in from IRS tax returns and Medicare enrollment forms (these help the Census folks track migration in and out of the Peninsula) and when states issue definitive reports on the number of local births and deaths.

The PDN should have done the math on the 2003 percentages.

That would have shown us that the 2002 numbers we were picking up from last year’s story had been revised since April 2003.

We’ll do better next year.

No doubt this year’s estimates for 2003 will have changed by 2005.

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