Utah County has surpassed Washington County as the state's fastest-growing area, according to population estimates released today by the Utah Population Estimates Committee.

The state overall gained a record 84,425 people in one year, bringing its total population now to just under 2.7 million. And Salt Lake County's population now tops 1 million.

Utah County saw a growth rate of 5.5 percent as it gained just over 26,000 people. The county's total population grew to 501,477.

Washington County, meanwhile, saw its growth rate slow somewhat to 4.5 percent. The southern Utah county's 2007 population was estimated at 140,908.

Kenneth Sizemore of the Five County Association of Governments said Washington County's growth is tied to Las Vegas and southern California, and the slower growth rate reflects the struggles in those markets.

However, he says, "it's still one of the fastest-growing" counties in Utah.

The growth reflects Utah's historically low unemployment and strong job growth over the last few years, which has made the state attractive to new residents, says Mark Knold, chief economist for the state Department of Workforce Services.

"We've had a very unique and booming economy over the last three years and counting," he said. "Only now are we starting to see some slowing in housing."

However, he says commercial construction remains strong, and the housing slowdown could be temporary, if lenders "loosen their purse strings."

"It's not a lack of demand," he says. "The population growth keeps the pressure on."


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