Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties are losing population, albeit slightly, for the first time in six years, while the state's population continues to grow, according to new reports from the Census Bureau.
A total of five Maryland counties are shrinking in population largely due to out-migration, rather than to death or a decrease in foreign migration.
The declines are small, but halt a long period of growth in both counties, which are the second and fifth largest in the state, respectively.
An outpouring of 4,189 people moving to other counties in the United States between 2005 and 2006 contributed to a net loss of almost 100 people in Anne Arundel County, leaving it with 509,300 residents. The figure is more than double that of the total migration out of the county since 2000.
A total of 13,197 people left Prince George's County last year, contributing to a net loss of 1,449 residents and leaving the county with 841,315 residents. This is 43 percent of the total migration from the county since 2000.
Montgomery County and Baltimore City also experienced significant out-migration, followed by Allegany, Baltimore and Howard counties with smaller decreases.
The outflow is unusual, said Mark Goldstein of the Maryland State Department of Planning, who could not explain the cause.
Typically, out-migration from Anne Arundel and Prince George's County is to other parts of the state, Goldstein said, but the Census Bureau data does not identify where the residents are moving, or how many came in and out of each county.
Several factors may be contributing to the change: rising housing prices, the increasing ability of people to work and live in different places, residential building restrictions to ease school overcrowding, or laws requiring more stringent building standards in counties, including those in Anne Arundel that slow growth.
"There's so much going on (in the county), that if there is a decline, it's only temporary," said Denise Roberts, a spokeswoman for the Prince George's County Executive's office.
The population of Prince George's is expected to increase to 900,000 in the next five years, Roberts said, a reflection of major projects already underway. These include: the National Harbor project, a community of new businesses, restaurants and condominiums along the Potomac River; an increase of 4,200 jobs at Fort Meade resulting from the Defense Department's Base Realignment and Closure process; and student growth at the University of Maryland, College Park.
"This stuff isn't going up for no reason," Roberts said. "It's meant to accommodate a growth in population."
The decline in affordable housing forces residents to move to nearby states such as Delaware and Pennsylvania, said Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold, and greater affordable housing options is a reason why counties such as Cecil and Caroline are increasing in population so quickly.
"It's the calm before the storm," said Leopold, who expects the county to gain population over the next decade through BRAC, which is expected to reel in thousands of jobs in the defense industry and private sector.
The other three counties that experienced a reduction in population were Allegany and Garrett counties and Baltimore City.
The Census report also showed Caroline County grew at the fastest rate in the last year, followed by Cecil, St. Mary's and Wicomico counties.
Four Maryland jurisdictions are among the 100 largest of 3,141 counties nationwide: Montgomery (44), Prince George's (57) and Baltimore (63). Baltimore City ranks 94th in the nationwide county rankings.
Maricopa County, Ariz., which includes Phoenix, leads the nation as the fastest-growing county, gaining 696,000 residents between July 2005 and 2006.
Maryland County Population Estimates
* Percent change was too small to show.
|| July 1, 2006
|| July 1, 2005
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Source: U.S. Census Bureau's Estimates of Population Change for Counties Population Division.