Flathead County continues to grow at a faster rate than all but one other large county in Montana, according to the latest population data released last month by the U.S. Census Bureau.
Though the growth rate is modest at 1.5 percent annually, Flathead ranks as the second fastest growing large county in the state behind only Gallatin County, which is among the fastest growing in the nation.
The population gains in Flathead and Gallatin are following the counties’ recent success as the top two economic performers in the state.
Flathead County added an estimated 1,241 people from July of 2014 to July of 2015, according to the Census Bureau. It marked the third year in a row of noteworthy population gains after three years of stalled growth during the recession.
Flathead has gained an estimated 4,473 people since the summer of 2012, pushing the population to 96,165.
While the county has an aging population that continues to grow, there is also an infusion of youth. A total of 686 babies were born last year at Kalispell Regional Healthcare, according to hospital officials. The previous year, 644 babies were born. The long-term annual average is 500.
An estimated 17 percent of the county is 65 or older.
Gallatin County, fueled by impressive economic gains in a variety of industries, including technology and construction, gained an estimated 3,500 people from 2014 to 2015. The remarkable population spike of 3.6 percent pushed the county over 100,000 people. Only three other counties in the Northern Rockies are growing faster.
Among the state’s largest counties, Missoula ranked just behind Flathead at 1.5 percent growth last year and Yellowstone County hit 0.9 percent.
Among Northwest Montana counties, Lake County grew by 358 people from 2014 to 2015 and has an estimated population of 29,467; Lincoln County lost an estimated 73 people and hit 19,052; Sanders County lost an estimated 28 people and hit 11,336; and Glacier County lost 49 people for a total of 13,647.
Montana added an estimated 9,370 people from 2014 to 2015, according to government data. The state had an estimated population of 1,032,949, seventh smallest among all states.
Flathead County Profile
2015 Population Estimate: 96,165 (+1,241 over 2014)
Median Household Income: $46,858
Individuals Below Poverty Level: 13.7%
High School Graduate or Higher: 93.6%
Health Insurance Coverage: 81%
Median Housing Value: $226,700
Housing Units: 47,184
Number of Companies: 13,592
Employed Residents: 41,486 (+222 over last 12 months)
Nonseasonal Unemployment Rate (in March): 7.1%
Source: U.S. Census Bureau Population Division.
Flathead County Population Growth
Year Population Change Since Previous Year
2005 83,320 (+2,073)
2006 85,759 (+2,439)
2007 88,245 (+2,486)
2008 90,260 (+2,015)
2009 90,910 (+650)
2010 90,928 (+18)
2011 91,222 (+320)
2012 91,692 (+470)
2013 93,125 (+1,433)
2014 94,924 (+1,799)
2015 96,165 (+1,241)
Source: U.S. Census Bureau Population Division. Population figures between 2004-10 were verified through the 2010 Census. The figures since 2011 are estimates.