CARSON CITY -- Nevada's population, which dipped slightly in recent years after decades of being the fastest-growing state, might be growing again, according to the state demographer.
Demographer Jeff Hardcastle said the population, estimated at 2.7 million in the 2010 census, may have hit bottom after two years of decline.
Reports from United Van Lanes and the Department of Motor Vehicles showing more people moving into the state would seem to indicate that growth is occurring, but the demographer questions whether they are valid indicators.
"The population is flat to slightly up," Hardcastle said.
United Van Lines, one of the largest movers, returned Nevada on Wednesday to its list of "high inbound" states, meaning considerably more people are moving households into the state than moving out of the state. Its figures show 55.6 percent of the moves in Nevada have been inbound in 2011.
Melissa Sullivan, a United Van Lines spokeswoman, said Thursday that Nevada for 25 straight years had been classified as a high inbound state, until 2010 when it had been placed in the company's outbound category.
And the Department of Motor Vehicles reported in November that more than 5,500 people turned in their driver's licenses from other states as they acquired Nevada licenses. That is just a couple of hundred less than during the 2005-07 peak growth years.
In contrast, U-Haul reported Thursday that it moved 0.7 percent more people out of Nevada than into the state during the January-through-November period. In Las Vegas, 2.3 percent more people left than moved in during the same period. U-Haul did not provide more recent figures.
Hardcastle is skeptical about whether United Van Lines and DMV figures mean the population is growing.
"It's an indication we have people moving here, but we don't have a good indicator of how many are moving out," Hardcastle said about the driver's license statistics.
He said the moving company statistics also might be faulty because they apply only to people who can afford to hire movers, and many people in Nevada may be leaving without the help of a moving company. The U-Haul figures would bear out his reasoning.
Hardcastle will release the official Nevada population estimates for July 2011 near the end of January. He declined to give any indication of them now.
He had estimated Nevada's population at a peak of 2,738,133 in July 2008, but then that figure fell by 1 percent in the next year.
Although Hardcastle saw a slight growth between 2009 and 2010, the Census Bureau came in with a 2,700,555 state population figure for the April 2010 census, 24,000 less than his figure for July 2010.
Hardcastle must use that census figure now as a starting point from which he makes his annual state estimates.
Both the state demographer and the U.S. census show Clark County's population at just under 2 million.
Jon Wardlaw, the demographer for Clark County, estimated the county's population is "close to 2 million."
In the fall of 2007, Wardlaw and others in the county government had announced that the county's population had topped the 2 million barrier.
Wardlaw is in a dispute now with Hardcastle on the current estimate of the county population.
He said Hardcastle wants to estimate the county population at slightly less than his own calculation. These disputes are common among demographers. It must be settled before the official estimates are released next month.
In calculating the population, Hardcastle and Wardlaw rely on factors such as electric meter use and housing vacancy numbers.
Hardcastle attributed any growth to job creation statistics.
Total employment in Nevada for November, according to the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, was 8,700 more than a year earlier. That is a 0.8 percent gain.
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