BEND, OR -- Local leaders are focused on the exponential growth we’ve seen in the region in recent years – it was the primary topic discussed during Bend’s State of the City, earlier this week. Kale Donnelly, a Workforce Analyst with the Oregon Employment Department, has studied Deschutes County’s population and says it's still climbing, "2011 annual population growth was closer to 2,500. Now, the latest released numbers for 2017, showed annually, we’re gaining 6,000 new residents within the county."
According to Donnelly, those 6,000 new residents in 2017 were nearly all people moving into the area. "The difference between births and deaths has remained mostly in the same ballpark region over the last six years. So, in 2011, the 'natural increase' was responsible for 26% of the population growth; Nowadays, only 7%. So, that just shows you that most of the growth in population is being driven by people moving in to Deschutes County." That means, net migration only accounted for 74% of growth six years ago, compared to 93% in 2017.
He believes the rate is closely tied to regional job growth. "We’re seeing record population growth and we’ve also witnessed record employment growth in the last few years," Donnelly tells KBND News, "Both of those are looking like they’re starting to slow a little bit – still growing, but growing at a slower rate. And, I think the two go hand in hand. People are going to move where there is a job available for them." He adds, "The old saying ‘if you build it will they come?’ I think the answer is definitely yes. There are jobs available; people are moving into the region to take advantage of that."
Local growth is far outpacing the statewide trend. Oregon’s total population grew at a rate of 1.4% in 2017. In Deschutes County, the 2017 rate was 3.4%.