2020 Rogue Valley Population Estimates Show Mixed County Trends

by Guy Tauer

November 24, 2020

Portland State University’s Population Research Center recently released their preliminary population estimates for Oregon, its counties, and incorporated cities. These data are still preliminary and subject to public comment and review for about one month. Historically, there have not been large changes between the preliminary and final published figures. Newly released numbers show the Rogue Valley continuing to gain new residents through July 1, 2020, at the same growth rate as 2019 but at a slower pace than in 2017 and 2018. This slower growth is now reversing the trend of steadily recovering population growth rates coming out of the Great Recession, as the population growth rate has edged lower for the past few years. From July 1, 2019 to July 1, 2020 Jackson County gained 1,950 new residents for a total population of 223,240. Josephine County lost 190 residents during that same time period to reach a total of 86,560 residents.
Looking at the rate of population growth since 2011 shows a general improvement in the population growth rate following the last deep recession.

Jackson County’s population growth rate generally followed the statewide trend starting in 2011. Growth rates started out slower than Oregon’s earlier in the decade, but have been just slightly below the statewide rate since 2013. Jackson County’s population growth rate continued to accelerate through 2017, climbing to almost 1.5 percent before slowing a bit to an increase of 0.9 percent in both 2019 and 2020. Josephine County’s population showed little change from 2011 to 2013. Population growth accelerated through 2016 and 2017, then growth rates slowed a bit to 0.4 percent between 2018 and 2019, before the population decline of 0.2 percent in 2020.

Cities and Towns

Most city areas showed either essentially no change or growth between 2019 and 2020 in the Rogue Valley. Medford, however, gained an estimated 1,650 new residents, and Central Point added 390 to its population as both communities grew by about 2 percent.
Over in Josephine County, slower-growing Grants Pass had an estimated 0.6 percent increase, or 240 new residents. Cave Junction, the only other incorporated city in Josephine County, was unchanged with a population of 1,975.

If you are wondering about other smaller communities – Wonder, O’Brien, Selma, or White City, for example – the Portland State University estimates only cover incorporated cities and towns. Damascus, Oregon recently ended its incorporation, and is no longer published in this series. You would need to use Census Bureau estimates from the decennial census or the American Community Survey. Remember these estimates are anchored to the last decennial Census. So you can expect some revision to the 2021 Portland State University figures when the data from the complete Census count are incorporated into annual estimates produced by the Portland State University Population Research Center.

Population trends and growth rates have mirrored the overall economic improvement that Oregon and the Rogue Valley have experienced in the past few years. In-migration has been the driver of the Rogue Valley’s population change in recent years. More employment opportunities and the region’s continued perception as a desirable place to live inspire more people to call the Rogue Valley their home. But factors that may be slowing the growth rate could be rising home and rental prices, lack of housing availability and low vacancy rates, and the growing trend toward slower overall migration and staying in homes longer. Certainly the long summer of smoky Rogue Valley skies in 2018 did little to lure new residents during the busier time of year for home buying and relocating. And the impact of the devastating Almeda fire, especially on the communities of Phoenix and Talent, may be apparent in the figures for July 1, 2021 when they are published next year.

Much more detail will be available when Portland State University’s Population Research Center releases their annual population report for 2020 a bit later, such as population by age, and components of population change. For more information, go to https://www.pdx.edu/prc/home.

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