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Douglas County’s population grows by more than 1,000 during past year; update on Lawrence Public Library project timeline

Today is one of those days when I love statistics, and not just because all the math gives me an excuse to take off my shoes. Today, statistics help remind me that all is right in the world again. A pair of reports show that Lawrence and Kansas once again are faring better than the M&M's: Manhattan and Missouri.

Report No. 1 is from the Census Bureau, and it shows that Douglas County had a decent year in terms of population growth in 2013. Douglas County added 1,279 people from July 2012 to July 2013. In terms of total number of people, that was the third-highest total out of the state's 105 counties. The Census Bureau estimates the county has a population of 114,322 people.

The county's growth rate checked in at 1.1 percent, which was the 11th best growth rate in the state for 2013. Let's be clear: Historically, that is not a real good number for Douglas County. During the 1980s, Douglas County averaged 2 percent growth per year. During the 1990s, the average growth rate was 2.2 percent per year.

But those were different times, and it is important to note that Douglas County's growth rate is still a heck of a lot better than the state's as a whole. The Census Bureau estimates the entire state added just 8,559 people during the 12-month period. That's a growth rate of 0.3 percent.

As for Manhattan, well the numbers show that Riley County — which includes Manhattan — lost 636 people during the time period. That was the second largest population loss in the state. The largest, in case you are wondering, was Geary County, with a loss of 873 people.

Geary County is right next to Riley County and is home to Fort Riley. It is probably safe to assume both Riley County's and Geary County's population changes were affected by changes at the fort. Both communities are used to population swings that are far greater than Douglas County experiences. So, I'll leave it to someone else to determine whether those numbers are really that concerning. I'm mainly just taking my shots at Manhattan while I can. After all, we are now closer to football season than we are to basketball season.

Here's a look at the five counties that added the largest number of people over the past 12 months.

— Johnson County: 7,097 people (1.3 percent growth rate)

— Sedgwick County: 1,977 people (0.4 percent)

— Douglas County: 1,279 people (1.1 percent)

— Wyandotte County: 1,209 people (0.8 percent)

— Leavenworth County: 475 people (0.6 percent)

The way I'm reading this data: Of the urban counties in the state, Lawrence had the second fastest growth rate in the group. That's not bad. It is not what it used to be, but still not bad.

In case you are wondering which county had the fastest growth rate in the state, well, get ready to invest all your money in the economic boom known as . . . Wallace County. It had a growth rate of 2.5 percent. It added 39 people.

Report No. 2 focuses on Kansas and our neighboring states. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis recently released its report on 2013 per capita income for all the states. In other words, this is the report that shows how rich we are compared with other states (kind of, to use a highly technical economic phrase.)

Kansas saw its personal income grow by 2.4 percent, which wasn't quite as good as the national average of 2.6 percent. So, we didn't exactly keep up with the Joneses in 2013.

But surely you have figured out by now that the key to feeling good about yourself is to find somebody you are better than. In the Plains region, there was only one state that Kansas clearly outperformed: Missouri. The Show Me State checked in with a 2.3 percent growth rate. Kansas also had a higher growth rate than South Dakota, which checked in at 1.8 percent. South Dakota had the lowest growth rate among the seven states in the Plains Region, but more on why I decided to pick on Missouri in a moment.

Kansas average per capita income was $43,916 in 2013, which is about 1 percent less than the national average. Kansas was one of only two states in the Plains region that had a per capita income that was below the national average. Missouri was the other. While Kansas was 1 percent below, Missouri was 10 percent below the national average. All joking aside, Missouri appears to have some issues to consider when it comes to income and wages.

None of us, however, are North Dakota. These numbers confirmed to me that there are only two forms of recreation in North Dakota: growing things (money, it appears) and drilling either an oil or gas well in your front yard. Income growth in North Dakota was 7.6 percent, tops in the nation. And North Dakota now has the second highest per capita income in the nation. It is $57,084, or 28 percent above the national average.

Anyway, my feet are getting cold, so I'm going to end my mathematical exercises by showing you how Kansas compared with the other states in the Plains region:

— Iowa: $45,114 per capita income, up 3.2 percent

— Kansas: $43,916 per capita income, up 2.4 percent

— Minnesota: $47,856 per capita income, up 2.8 percent

— Missouri: $39,897 per capita income, up 2.3 percent

— Nebraska: $46,033 per capita income, up 3.0 percent

— North Dakota: $57,084 per capita income, up 7.6 percent

— South Dakota: $45,558 per capita income, up 1.8 percent

In other news and notes from around town:

• If you have driven by the construction site of the Lawrence Public Library expansion, you'll notice that building is starting to really take shape. The library is scheduled to move back into the space at Seventh and Vermont streets, this summer, but we never have gotten a real firm date from the city on when.

Well, there are now some indications that it will be late summer. City commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting are set to approve an extension of the lease the city has to temporarily locate the library in the former Borders building at Seventh and New Hampshire streets.

Originally, the city had planned for that lease to end May 31. But staff members now are recommending the library extend the lease through July 31 to give the library more time to make the move into the new facility.

In case you are wondering how much it costs to rent a temporary library, the city pays $11,690 per month for the building.

Reply 1 comment from Thomas Bryce

Latest Census numbers show Douglas County had fewer private sector jobs, businesses than in 2000

Apparently it is not just my wardrobe that lingers in a past decade. (I'll be out at several events today, and yes, I really am wearing a 100 percent polyester, narrow KU tie.)

There are some relatively new numbers out about the Lawrence economy that show jobs and business totals are actually below where they were at the beginning of 2000.

The numbers are from the U.S. Census Bureau's County Business Patterns Report. The report measures the number of private sector business establishments in a county and the number of employees in those businesses. (So, no government jobs included.) The latest data is for 2011. Here is what it had to say about Douglas County.

Douglas County had 1,329 fewer private sector jobs than it did in 2007, which is right before the Great Recession began. That's a negative growth rate of 3.4 percent. Going all the way back to 2000, Douglas County has 427 fewer private sector jobs. That's a negative 1.1 percent growth rate.

The report also looks at the number of business establishments in a county. An establishment, by the way, is each place of business. So, for example, if a single dry cleaning company has four stores in Lawrence, that's four establishments. Douglas County has 191 fewer establishment than it did in 2007. That's a negative growth rate of 6.8 percent. Going back to 2000, the county has 23 fewer establishments. That's a negative 0.8 percent growth rate.

How do Douglas County's numbers stack up to our peers? Well, nearly everyone saw job and business losses since 2007. We experienced a great recession after all.

Here's a look at 2007 to 2011 growth rates for other large Kansas counties:

• Douglas County: Negative 3.4 percent for jobs; negative 6.8 percent for establishments.

• Johnson County: Negative 5.6 percent for jobs; negative 4.2 percent for establishments.

• Shawnee County: Negative 0.4 percent for jobs; negative 8.1 percent for establishments.

• Riley County: Negative 6.4 percent for jobs; negative 2.9 percent for establishments.

• Sedgwick County: Negative 7.8 percent for jobs; negative 7.9 percent for establishments.

• Wyandotte County: Negative 2 percent for jobs; negative 3.8 percent for establishments.

All in all, we held our own during that time period. I think people will find the totals since 2000 a little more concerning. They look like this:

• Douglas County: Negative 1.1 percent jobs; negative 0.8 percent establishments.

• Johnson County: Positive 5 percent jobs; positive 6.1 percent establishments.

• Shawnee County: Negative 11.3 percent jobs; negative 5.3 percent establishments.

• Riley County: Positive 5.3 percent jobs; positive 9.5 percent establishments.

• Sedgwick County: Negative 7.9 percent jobs; negative 0.2 percent establishments.

• Wyandotte County: Positive 5.2 percent jobs; negative 4.2 percent establishments.

Since 2000, Douglas County has failed to keep pace with Johnson County, Wyandotte County and Riley County when it comes to job creation. We're still outpacing Shawnee County, but that may soon change. Its growth since 2007 has been better than ours. So, all in all, the long-term trend isn't great.

I'm not sure what to make of these numbers, to be honest. But they do seem to add to the question of whether Lawrence's economic standing has fallen further than other communities. I found these numbers as I was doing research for an article on that very question. Look for that article — where we quiz 10 local leaders on the state of the Lawrence economy — in Sunday's Journal-World.

The Lawrence economy is kind of at an interesting point right now. There are some things on the ground that support reason for optimism. Housing sales and housing starts are up. Retail sales posted a strong year in 2012. Construction of the South Lawrence Trafficway is expected to bring new commercial interests to town. The Farmland Industries property gives the community industrial land to market. Downtown redevelopment has hit a new gear. And new development interests already are starting to surface around the Rock Chalk Park development in northwest Lawrence.

As one economic development leader told me, the data is rearview mirror stuff. The stuff on the ground is front windshield material. Certainly, good drivers want to spend more time looking out the windshield than the rearview mirror.

But what do I know? As my wife will tell you, I certainly don't know how to use the mirror on the wardrobe.

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Census rejects city’s appeal of 2010 population totals; new Census numbers for Douglas County show growth slowed in 2012

I suppose all great disputes get to this point: the discussion of fecal matter.

That is what it has come to in the dispute between Lawrence City Hall and the U.S. Census Bureau.

The city and the Census Bureau still don’t agree on how many people live in Lawrence, and now it is official. The Census Bureau recently notified the city it has rejected the city’s appeal of the bureau’s 2010 Census findings for the city.

No matter, city officials are convinced their local data showing the city has a little more than 94,000 people is correct. And they have at least one unique piece of evidence to back it up: the weight of fecal matter.

City commissioners were told at their Tuesday meeting that the city has at least 30 years worth of data about how much “organic material” comes into the city’s sewer plant each year. (Yes, “organic material” is code for just what you are thinking.) Over the years, that number broken out on a per capita basis has remained pretty steady. Officials with the city’s utilities department told commissioners that the numbers they’re seeing tend to support the city’s population estimate more so than the Census Bureau’s count.

And that sounded good to city commissioners. (Well, maybe that’s not the best way to say that.) Regardless, the new direction for the city is to use the locally produced population estimates rather than relying on data from the Census that local officials now question.

The difference is significant. In 2010, the Census found the city had 87,643 people. The city believed it had about 90,000 people. The city’s Planning Department now estimates the city’s 2013 population to be 94,586 people. The Census hasn’t produced a 2013 population estimate yet, but the city expects it to be around 90,000 people. That’s a difference of about 5 percent.

And the difference likely will get bigger as more years pass because all the estimates use the 2010 total as a baseline. By 2020, who knows how much the Census Bureau and the city will disagree on the city’s population. The numbers have an impact on federal grants and that sort of thing, but the city also needs a good population number to do good planning. Like for a $64 million sewage treatment plant that the city gave preliminary approval to on Tuesday. (That’s why fecal matter data was so readily available, in case you are wondering.)

Population growth is one factor — although not the only one — in the city’s decision to move forward on the large project. The city is betting on a new era of growth. There’s a case to be made for that, but the city can’t point to Census data as a reason for their optimism.

With this appeal now in the books, the decade of the 2000s is now officially the slowest growth period for Lawrence since the Great Depression. The city grew at a rate of 0.9 percent a year for the decade of the 2000s, well below the more than 2 percent annual growth rates the city experienced in the 1980s and 1990s.

As for who is right and who is wrong in this dispute, I don’t know. The fecal data is interesting (never know what phrases you are going to write in this job), but it may not be the best indicator. As utility officials admit, not all of that material is human waste and not all of it comes from households. For example, when Hallmark starts producing more cards and envelopes as part of its Lawrence expansion, that project is expected to produce waste that is the equivalent of about 500 additional people. So, you can see how the numbers may be tough to interpret.

The Census Bureau, though, hasn’t done much to increase its credibility either. In notifying the city it was rejecting its appeal, the bureau did admit that it had messed up the count in some areas of town. But the Census is contending that it got the total count for the city right, but it didn’t allocate that population to some of the neighborhoods correctly. City officials have raised their eyebrows at that.

Tuesday’s meeting and its fecal content did produce a few good jokes from commissioners — mainly about how the city may want to offer its “weighing pooh” method to the Census Bureau.

What won’t be funny is if the city plans for and budgets for a lot of growth, and then it doesn’t happen. We’ll see who gets the last laugh — in about a decade or so.

•••

These numbers are just in this morning, so I thought I would add them on here. The Census Bureau has released it 2012 population estimates for Douglas County.

The new numbers won’t do anything to settle the dispute. If anything, they just add to it.

The Census Bureau found that from July 1, 2011, to July 1, 2012, Douglas County grew at a rate even slower than the rate the 2010 Census found.

The 2012 Douglas County population estimate checks in at 112,864 people, an increase of just 620 people for the year. That’s a growth rate of 0.5 percent. The 2010 Census found Douglas County during the decade of the 2000s grew at an average annual rate of about 1 percent. So now the Census Bureau is estimating we’re growing at about half that rate.

Oh, fecal matter.

Perhaps, the problem is we just don’t have enough purple. The new numbers show population growth around Kansas State University continues to boom. Manhattan’s metro area had a 2.8 percent population increase for the year, the 10th fastest for any metro area in the country.

Geary County, home to Junction City, had an increase of 7.4 percent for the year, the third fastest growth rate of any county in the country.

Douglas County did better than several other places, though. Several counties around us declined for the year. Here’s a look at the numbers for some other area counties:

— Johnson County 559,913 people (1.2 percent growth)

— Leavenworth: 77,739 (0.7 percent increase)

— Wyandotte: 159,129 ( 0.7 percent increase)

— Sedgwick: 503,899 (0.5 percent increase)

— Shawnee 178,991 (less than 0.1 percent increase)

— Franklin County 25,906 (less than 0.1 percent decline)

— Jefferson County 18,945 (0.2 percent decline)

— Osage County: 16,142 (1.1 percent decline)
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