As unemployment rates fall to the lowest levels in half a century, finding people to fill jobs is a growing challenge for employers. To meet that challenge, first you need people.
That’s why job creators from industries in every sector can do well to consider the five counties that comprise the Interstate 77 corridor between Charlotte, NC, and Columbia, SC, where they can access a rapidly growing regional labor force, currently in excess of 1.25 million people.
In April 2019, the US Census Bureau released 2018 population estimates down to the county level. Comparing these estimates to 2017 data, we discovered that the five-county region is enjoying a period of high-growth, more than double the Nation’s annual growth rate ― 1.7% vs. 0.06% ― and even a bit faster than the Charleston area’s growth rate by 0.03%. Altogether, the population of Richland, Fairfield, Chester, Lancaster and York counties increased by 13,589 people, the equivalent of 37 new residents every day.
While growth was seen on both ends of our corridor, the growth rate speeds up heading north, entering the Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia, NC-SC metropolitan area, one of the nation’s largest and fastest growing metro areas. The 10-county region became home to 44,350 new people from 2017 to 2018, the 13th largest increase among the almost 400 US metro areas. However, York County, SC, (2nd largest county in this region) and Lancaster County, SC, combined were responsible for 25% of that growth, adding 10,728 new residents.
In addition to York and Lancaster, Chester County is the only other SC county in the Charlotte metro area, rounding out the “Southern Charlotte Region.” In 2018, these three communities accounted for sixteen percent of the region’s 2.6 million people.
As a result of the analysis, a few more interesting points related to population growth in the northern counties were discovered:
- At a nearly identical growth rate five times the national average, York County and Lancaster County ranked 56th and 58th, respectively, in the U.S. Census Bureau’s list of 100 fastest growing counties of more than 10,000 people from July 1, 2017, to July 1, 2018.
- As significant components of one of the most economically dynamic markets in the country, that also happens to be in the southeast United States, it makes sense that inbound migration plays a big role in the growth of these counties. In fact, the net +7,048 residents moving in/out of York County from 2017 to 2018 was fourth most across both Carolinas.
- Nearly all of Lancaster County’s population growth from 2017 to 2018 ― 97% ― can be attributed to inbound migration and 2.8% of its 2018 population of 92,550 moved into the county in the past year.
- That rate of 2.8% is not only third highest in the Carolinas, it’s the 25th highest rate for all 1,606 counties east of the Mississippi River.
- Lancaster’s impressive statistics trend back many years. In its population peer group of all U.S. counties with a 2010 population between 10,000 and 100,000, Lancaster County’s growth rate of 24% was 14th fastest during that time. (About 55% of all U.S. counties showed any growth in the past year.)
In addition, the corridor’s growth helped drive the continuing growth of the Palmetto State, which posted a net gain of 50,775 U.S. residents from 2017 to 2018, the fifth highest state rate in the country.
All this population upswing is occurring because people are moving to the I-77 region and staying here, for economic opportunity and quality of life. Potential and current employers can come here or expand here with confidence that they can find the workforce they need for success.
If you’re looking for local data but don’t need the national rankings, make sure to visit our Economic Data Center, updated with the 2018 figures.