SALT LAKE CITY — Census figures released Tuesday showing Utah's population jumped more than half a million over the last decade were good news to some.

They left University of Utah senior research economist Pam Perlich a bit crestfallen.

Perlich serves on the Utah Population Estimates Committee. For UPEC, Tuesday's release of state population data equates to a once-a-decade performance evaluation because it's when the committee finds out how accurate its annual estimates of the state's population have been since the previous Census.

UPEC estimated Utah's 2010 population would be at 2.83 million, approximately 65,000 people more than that the official number of 2,763,885 the Census reported.

UPEC uses birth and death figures from the State Health Department as a baseline for calculating subsequent population estimates. Also included in the mix are the committee's calculations regarding net migration, which is the difference between people moving into Utah and people moving out.

During 2000-10, there were 380,000 more births than deaths. That means a net migration of 150,000 was needed to arrive at a population growth of 530,000 — but UPEC's estimate forecasted a net migration of 215,000.

"(The UPEC estimate) isn't too bad when you look at the total population. But remember, the births and deaths were gimmes so all we had to do was estimate that 150,000 net in-migration. We overshot that by 65,000 people, a pretty large margin of error on migration. That's how it goes in the estimation business."

However, any modest regret Perlich harbored from overestimating a decade's worth of migration into Utah quickly dissipated amid her enthusiasm for the future of the Beehive State, a feeling rooted in its 23.8-percent population increase — the third-highest increase in the nation, trailing only Nevada and Arizona.

"We're part of this long slow shift of population from the Northeast of our nation and the Midwest of our nation to the South and the West," she said. "People look at Utah as a place of opportunity."