SALT LAKE CITY — A significant increase in Utah's Hispanic population and a new ranking for the largest cities in the state are evident in census data released on Thursday.
And at least one Utah congressman is complaining that the Census Bureau does not count Utahns who are overseas unless they are in the military, a factor that could have won Utah a fourth congressional seat in 2000 if LDS missionaries abroad had been counted in that census.
Hispanics now make up 13 percent of Utah's population — a 78 percent increase over the count in 2000 by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Pam Perlich, a senior research economist with the University of Utah's Bureau of Business and Economic Research, said the minority population growth is the most noticeable aspect of the new numbers.
Even more notable is 57 percent of the population increase for people under 18 was among minorities, Perlich said.
Tony Yapias, director of Proyecto Latino de Utah, said the young Latinos are coming to Utah to work and raise their families.
"They're just having children and so that tends to add to the numbers that we have," he said, noting the growth could lead to a significant voting block by the next decade.
Salt Lake City is still the state's largest city with a population of 186,440, followed again by West Valley City and Provo. West Jordan jumped from No. 7 to No. 4, Orem stayed at No. 5, Sandy slipped from 4 to 6, Ogden slipped from 6 to 7, St. George moved up from 10 to 8, Layton slipped from 8 to 9, and Taylorsville slipped from 9 to 10.
West Jordan resident Jim Edwards said there is room for more in his new city where it's less expensive to buy and live than the east side of Salt Lake valley.
"Nice neighborhoods, nice people, not a lot of crime. So it's a good area," he said.
Lehi has seen the largest percentage of growth since 2000, growing by 149.1 percent, and is now ranked 13th overall, moving up from 29th. Rounding out the top 10 cities for percentage of growth, in order, are Spanish Fork and South Jordan, 71.3 percent; Draper, 67.6 percent; Riverton, 54.9 percent; West Jordan, 51.8 percent; St. George, 46.8 percent; Pleasant Grove, 42.8 percent; Murray, 37.4; and West Valley City, 18.9 percent.
Salt Lake County is still the most populous in the state, with 1,029,655 residents, while Wasatch County was the fastest growing, with a surge of 54.7 percent.
Data from the 2010 Census was delivered to Utah Gov. Gary Herbert and legislative leaders Wednesday and released publicly Thursday afternoon.
Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, responded shortly after by reiterating his concern that Americans living or working abroad who are not military or federal employees are not adequately accounted for in the census.
Utah only needed another 856 people in 2000 to gain a fourth congressional seat. The population would have surged by about 10,000 if Utah residents serving missions abroad would have been counted.
"The bureau could have fixed this problem by now but refuses to. This issue must be addressed before the next census begins, which is why I will be introducing legislation in the coming weeks to implement a new process that will ensure all American residents, either here in the U.S. or those temporarily living abroad, are included in all final census data," Bishop said.