Long-term population growth from steadily booming recreation, tourism, and retirement economies was interrupted in the latest 2010-12 period. During the 1990s and early 2000s, rapid in-migration to nonmetro regions with mountains, lakes, moderate climates, and other natural amenities generated jobs in construction and the service sector, which attracted additional migrants. Population growth in counties with recreation-based employment has dropped from a peak rate of nearly 3.5 percent during 2004-06 to only 0.5 percent since 2010. While this represents a dramatic drop in population growth, it still leaves recreation counties growing faster than other types of nonmetro counties. Along with farming-dependent counties that were already growing slowly, manufacturing-dependent counties switched from population growth in 2004-06 to decline in 2010-12. Widespread job losses in rural manufacturing, caused by the recent economic recession, increased global competition, and technological changes, contributed to the nonmetro population downturn since 2006, especially in the eastern parts of the country. Farming-dependent counties, smaller in population and concentrated in the Great Plains and Corn Belt, declined as a whole despite energy-related job growth that occurred in many such counties. Both types of counties have been particularly affected by an aging population which contributes to slower population growth from natural change.
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