El Paso County could soon reclaim its title as the state’s most populous county after Denver held it for the past few years.
Since mid-2015, El Paso County has been growing faster than the city-county to the north, according to data released by the U.S. Census Bureau on Thursday. The county’s population swelled to more than 713,850 last year, trailing just behind Denver’s roughly 716,490 residents.
The figures are no surprise to state officials, who have forecast that El Paso County will soon overtake Denver, said State Demographer Elizabeth Garner. El Paso County, which recovered from the 2008 recession more quickly than Colorado’s capital city, was more populous than Denver until mid-2014, she said.
From July 2017 to July 2018, El Paso County grew by 1.9 percent, gaining about 13,060 residents. Denver grew by 1.6 percent that year, gaining about 11,050 residents, according to the data. If that continues, El Paso County will again have the most residents by mid-2020, if not sooner, said Garner.
The latest figures reveal little about how Colorado Springs measures up to Denver, however.
In 2017, Colorado Springs had a population of 467,000, accounting for about 66 percent of El Paso County’s residents. To compare, Denver’s population was about 705,000, Garner said.
El Paso County and the Colorado Springs area also remain relatively small compared to the roughly 3.19 million people who live in the seven-county Denver metro area, which also includes Boulder, Broomfield, Adams, Arapahoe, Douglas and Jefferson counties, the Census data show.
From April 2010 to July 2018, El Paso County’s population rose by more than 91,600, according to the data. During that time, 48,560 people moved to El Paso County, while about 42,900 people were added from natural population growth, which occurs when births outnumber deaths. A few hundred of the people included in the increase weren’t classified by the Census Bureau.
Many people have come to El Paso County because home prices in the Pikes Peak region are much lower than in Denver County and other areas along the Front Range, Garner said. Colorado Spring’s military installations attract servicemen and women and their families, and the availability of other jobs is also a draw, she said.
“For there to be people, there needs to be housing units and jobs,” she said. “So, as long as El Paso County keeps creating both of those, you’ll see population increase.”
The State Demographer’s Office forecasts that the county’s population will exceed 1 million people by 2050. Denver will have a population of about 886,000, and Arapahoe and Adams counties will be vying for third place with more than 850,000 people, state projections show.
Colorado’s fastest growing counties are “baby counties,” small and sparsely populated ones such as San Juan, Huerfano and Park, Garner said. Weld and Douglas counties — with populations of about 314,310 and 342,780, respectively — have also grown at relatively fast rates, exceeding 2 percent growth from 2017 to 2018, according to the Census data.
Pueblo, southern Colorado’s second-most populated county behind El Paso, continues to grow much slower than Front Range counties. Pueblo county gained about 8,470 residents since April 2010, for a total of about 167,530 in July 2018.