Which metropolitan areas in Alabama are growing or shrinking?
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Most of Alabama’s metropolitan areas are growing, but a handful stand out from the crowd.
Since 2010, no metropolitan area in the state has been able to compete with Daphne-Fairhope-Foley. The metro consists of just one county – Baldwin County, home to Alabama beaches and has been Alabama’s fastest growing county since 2010.
During that time, the metropolitan area grew nearly 26%, adding more than 47,000 people, according to population estimates from the US Census Bureau. No other metro has reached the 20% demographic growth threshold.
And Daphne-Fairhope-Foley’s growth hasn’t slowed down. It was also the state’s fastest growing metropolitan area between 2019 and 2020, growing 2.6%, or about 5,700 people, in just one year.
Each of the three major metro cities is among the fastest growing cities in Alabama. Foley took the # 1 spot in this category between 2019 and 2020. Fairhope was # 3 and Daphne # 8. A fourth city in the metro area – Gulf Shores – also landed the top 10, coming in at No.7.
But Daphne-Fairhope-Foley is not the only metro that is growing rapidly.
The state is home to 13 metropolitan areas in total, including the Columbus, GA subway, which crosses state lines to contain Russell County, Alabama. Eight of these metros grew between 2010 and 2020, and nine between 2019 and 2020.
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Note that these population counts are estimates – the latest set of educated guesses made by the US Census Bureau before the official 2020 census numbers will be released later this year. The Bureau will compare these numbers – which are part of the 2020 population estimates – with the official numbers to assess their accuracy.
Along with Daphne-Fairhope-Foley, two other subways – Auburn-Opelika and Huntsville – have grown much faster than the rest of the state. Auburn-Opelika is Alabama’s second fastest growing metro area since 2010, growing 19% during that time period – although the growth rate has slowed slightly in recent years, according to estimates. from the Census Bureau. The metro experienced its lowest growth rate of a decade in 2019, and even slower-than-usual growth in 2020.
The Huntsville metro is another story. The gross growth there has been astounding. Huntsville surpassed Mobile as the state’s second most populous metropolitan area in 2013, and its population continues to grow. It has added nearly 10,000 people in the past year alone, according to estimates. No other metro – including Daphne-Fairhope-Foley – was even close to that raw number.
The Huntsville Metro consists of two of Alabama’s fastest growing counties – Madison and Limestone. Limestone has been Alabama’s fastest growing county for the past two years and is home to Athens, one of the state’s fastest growing cities. The Huntsville subway has added more than 64,000 people since 2010 – the largest increase of any subway in the state, and a growth rate of 15.3%, which ranked third during that time period.
Between 2019 and 2020, the Huntsville metro’s 2.1% growth rate ranked second in the state.
The Birmingham-Hoover metropolitan area, by far the largest in the state, has seen relatively low population growth in recent years. It housed nearly 1.1 million people in 2020, more than twice as many as the nearest metro. But it increased by less than 3% between 2010 and 2020 – the seventh fastest rate of Alabama’s 13 subways. Between 2019 and 2020, it added just 1,000 people, or about 0.1%.
Birmingham-Hoover is also the largest metro in terms of physical size. It consists of six counties: Jefferson, Shelby, St. Clair, Blount, Bibb and Chilton. Only two of those counties saw significant growth between 2019 and 2020. Shelby County is one of Alabama’s fastest growing counties and has accounted for the bulk of the metro area’s population growth, adding more than 3,000 people since 2019., in the northeastern part of the metro, added 1,000 people during that time.
Jefferson County, the most populous county in the state, lost more than 3,000 people during the same period. Without the rapid growth of Shelby County, the Birmingham-Hoover Underground would shrink.
Four of Alabama’s subways, including two of the largest, are indeed shrinking. The Anniston-Oxford, Mobile, Montgomery and Gadsden subways all lost population between 2019 and 2020. The Decatur subway, just south of Huntsville, lost population between 2010 and 2020 but has turned the tide recently, gaining a small number of people between 2019 and 2020 Decatur has added people every year since 2017.