Flathead County Approaching 100,000 Residents

The surge from 2015 to 2016 marked the largest in Flathead County since 2006-07

By Dillon Tabish
Beacon file photo

The population in Flathead County grew by roughly 2,000 people from 2015 to 2016, the largest year-to-year increase in a decade and one of the biggest gains in Montana, according to data released March 23 by the U.S. Census Bureau.

As of July 1, 2016, Flathead County was home to an estimated 98,082 people. The latest figure represents a 2 percent increase over the 2015 total of 96,079 people.

At this pace, Flathead County is poised to reach 100,000 residents for the first time this summer.

The surge from 2015 to 2016 marked the largest in Flathead County since 2006-07, when the population jumped nearly 2,400 people in one year, from 84,824 to 87,200.

Similar to recent years, Flathead experienced the second largest percentage gain in Montana behind only Gallatin County, which grew by 3,766 people (3.5 percent) and hit a population of 104,502.

The largest county in Montana — Yellowstone — grew by an estimated 1,389 people to 158,437. Missoula County added 1,949 people, reaching 116,130 people. Lewis and Clark County grew by 803 people to 67,282.

Cascade County shrunk by an estimated 523 people to a population of 81,755.

In Northwest Montana, Lincoln County gained 212 and is now home to 19,259 people. That remains roughly 428 fewer people than in 2010. Lake County gained 292 people from 2015 to 2016 and has a population of roughly 29,758. Sanders County grew by 218 people to 11,534. Glacier County grew by roughly 60 people to 13,694.

Families provided a noticeable boost to Flathead County’s population in the last year. There were 1,129 births in the county from 2015 to 2016, according to Census data. Flathead’s total nearly matched the amount of newborns in the larger counties of Missoula (1,234) and Gallatin (1,224). There were a total of 12,431 births in Montana in that time span.

Flathead County had 867 deaths from 2015-16, the second most in the state behind only Yellowstone (1,459). Flathead has one of the largest populations of older residents in Montana, and nearly 18 percent of the county is 65 or older. In Lincoln County, 26 percent of the population are seniors.

In comparison, 12 percent of Gallatin County’s population and 14 percent of Missoula County’s population are 65 or older.

Montana’s overall population grew by 1 percent from 2015 to 2016, adding roughly 10,400 residents and reaching 1.04 million.

The U.S. Census Bureau will publish the latest population estimates for individual cities in May.

Flathead County Population

As of July 1 of each year. Source: U.S. Census Bureau

2016 — 98,082 (+2,003)

2015 — 96,079 (+1,351)

2014 — 94,728 (+1,753)

2013 — 92,975 (+1,358)

2012 — 91,617 (+427)

2011 — 91,190 (+326)

Correction: Cascade County shrunk by an estimated 523 people, not 624 as was originally reported, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

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